Vikings ready to ‘pull out all the stops’
Northern Vance coach Benji Nelson said he would love to be practicing Monday. To get there, the fourth-seeded Vikings will have to get out of a first-round matchup at top-seeded Western Alamance Friday in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A state baseball playoffs.
Western Alamance (20-5) won the Mid-State Conference by a game over Northern Guilford and Eastern Alamance while Northern (9-6) enters the postseason having lost its last three games.
“Nobody’s giving us a chance,” said Nelson. “Nobody is expecting us to win that ballgame. I told them we have to play loose. We have nothing to lose. They’re supposed to beat us.”
Northern has had a tough time generating offense down the stretch. The Vikings were shut out by Cardinal Gibbons and Carolina Conference champion Orange before Tuesday’s 8-3 loss at Chapel Hill to close the regular season.
Northern led 4-3 before Chapel Hill plated four runs in the bottom of the fifth. Nelson was pleased his team found a way to at least get some runs across.
“Find ways to score runs whether it’s bunting some guys over, a squeeze attempt or something like that,” said Nelson. “We’ve got to pull out all the stops tomorrow.”
Ace right-hander Nate Arrington will go for Northern. The junior gave the Vikes a chance in last season’s 3-1 opening-round loss at top-seeded Gray’s Creek. Nelson is looking for more of the same Friday when the Warriors throw the first pitch at 7 p.m.
“Hopefully he’s on and can throw the curveball for a strike, keep them off balance changing speeds,” Nelson said of Arrington. “If we can do that and make plays behind him, scratch and claw for whatever runs we can get, who knows?”
Nelson added he knows Western Alamance is good, having won a competitive league, but there’s no need to get caught up in that, he said. The Vikings just need to take care of themselves.
“We certainly ain’t going up there to lose,” said Nelson. “We know it’s a tough challenge.”
Raiders, Eagles begin softball play
The Southern Vance and Warren County softball teams also begin the state playoffs Friday. The Raiders are at home in the 3-A state playoffs while the Eagles head to Wilson Beddingfield in the 2-A bracket.
Southern (14-5) earned a two-seed and hosts third-seeded Asheboro (7-11) of the Mid-Piedmont Conference today at 5 p.m. The winner faces either No. 2 Western Harnett (14-5) or No. 4 Burlington Williams (10-7) next week.
In the 2-A bracket, Warren County (8-11) is the fifth seed out of the Northern Carolina Conference and visits top-seeded Beddingfield (19-4) of the Eastern Plains Conference. Awaiting in the second round is No. 2 Granville Central (13-3) or No. 3 Pasquotank (8-6).