Pitcher’s duel goes to Northern in high-stakes game with Webb
Northern Vance’s recent offensive woes weren’t exactly solved in Tuesday’s win over J.F. Webb, but Viking coach Benji Nelson was happy to get any kind of confidence booster he could.
Northern owns fourth place in the 3-A Carolina Conference after the 2-1 win. Nate Arrington tossed a complete game for the Vikings, allowing six hits and striking out six.
“Fortunately today we found a way to win the ballgame,” said Nelson. “I’m glad we found a way to win this game. This time a year it still helps confidence. We’ve got four conference games left and we’re trying to make the playoffs. Today was a very big win.”
Northern improved to 3-3 in league play while Webb dropped to 1-4.
The two sides were stuck on zeros through five innings before Webb took the lead when David Watson knocked a shot up the middle that Northern second baseman TaBrian Scott couldn’t corral. Chad Frazier, who got on with a come-backer to the mound too hot for Arrington, came in to score.
Scott made amends for the error by leading off the bottom of the sixth with a towering homer to right-center field.
“You could see the expression on his face, felt like he let the team down,” said Nelson. “I tell the guys all the time it’s done and over with. There’s nothing you can do about it. We still have to stay focused during the game. I was glad it was him to come up there and give us that spark.”
Scott also had a momentum-swinging home run in the teams’ first meeting, a 9-4 win for Northern.
Webb coach Mike Carroll replaced starter Matt Hobgood with David Watson after Scott’s at-bat. Hobgood was impressive, allowing four hits while striking out five.
“He wanted the ball,” said Carroll. “I knew we were at the heart of their lineup and wanted to give them a different look.”
Barry Purnell, Trey Stainback and Zach Pegram each responded with consecutive hits before Chris Paulson sent a grounder back to the mound that Watson couldn’t handle and Purnell came in to make it 2-1.
Northern closed the game out in the top of the seventh with a diving grab in foul territory by rightfielder Tyquan Bryant before Thomas Abbott’s running snag in left for the final out.
“Tip your hat to Nate,” said Carroll. “He threw a good game. You would hope sooner or later, as many times as our kids have seen him and played ball with him in the summer, you would think we would make some kind of adjustment.”
Entering Tuesday, Cardinal Gibbons was on top of the league standings, followed by Orange and Chapel Hill.
Both Northern and Webb have four games left. The Vikings have Cardinal Gibbons at home Thursday while Webb heads to Chapel Hill Friday.
Nelson and Carroll each recognized there’s plenty of baseball to be played as the Vikings try to hang on to the last playoff spot and the Warriors try to sneak in.
“Anything can happen,” said Nelson. “Four conference games left. It’s not over by a long shot.”
“Anything can happen,” added Carroll. “We come out strong Friday against Chapel Hill and sneak another one out next week, there’s still a chance for us in the playoffs.”
WEBB — Andrew Watson (2-for-4), Ethan Bailey (1-for-3), Chad Frazier (1-for-3), Taylor Williams (1-for-3), Lane Dickerson (1-for-3)
NORTHERN — TaBrian Scott (1-for-3), Barry Purnell (1-for-3), Trey Stainback (2-for-3), Zach Pegram (2-for-3), Chris Paulson (1-for-3)
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