Vikings Take One From Panthers
Spartanburg is a program that is showing signs of dramatic improvement early on in the first year under new Head Coach Jesse Dyar. They have a lineup with a lot of pop in it, particularly in the middle of the order, and they have a dominant ace in Ian Squires that can go deep in games. The Vikings placed 3rd in the annual Steve Sanders Spartanburg County Tournament, during which they scored 24 runs in 4 games.
Chapman also features a lineup full of speed and hitters with a new arm entering the rotation – Wesley Shipman, who got his first start in the Steve Sanders Tournament against Boiling Springs in a close 4-2 loss. Shipman got the nod again on Wednesday night against the Vikings, and managed to battle through 4 innings in a game that really would serve as a good measuring stick for how much progress the defending 3A upperstate champions and state runners up are making early on.
The game got off to a rocky start as Shipman surrendered a leadoff single to Viking 2nd baseman Tyler Stevenson. After Stevenson swiped 2nd, Joe Cash drew a walk on 5 pitches to make an immediate threat. That threat would only lead to 1 run on an Andrew Dantin RBI grounder to 2nd that went for out #2. Shipman got Spartanburg 1B Donterian Davis to go down swinging to retire the side, leaving 2 runners stranded.
Ian Squires got his first regular season start for the Vikings. He struck out Chapman 2nd baseman Hudson Moss to start the game before surrendering his first hit on a single from Left Fielder Cason Owens. After logging his 2nd K, Panther Catcher Johann Rodriguez hit a towering routine fly ball to left that the Peyton Naylor dropped for a 2 base E7, allowing Owens to score unearned. That would be all Chapman could muster, as Coleman Gray popped up to the first baseman to end the inning, leaving courtesy runner Cole Daugherty at 2nd.
Wes Shipman worked his best frame of the game in the top of the 2nd, sitting the Vikings in order on 14 pitches with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to the shortstop, setting the stage for his team to go and give him a lead in the bottom half, which they did with a little 2 out rally.
Ian Squires got 2 quickies, getting Jarren Metcalf to ground to short and striking out Devin Roe before walking Jack Settle. Shipman helped his own case by following that up with a single to move Settle up 90 feet. After both runners advanced on a wild pitch, Hudson Moss drew a walk. Ball 4 to Moss went off of the catcher’s mitt for a passed ball, allowing Settle to trot home and give Chapman what would be their only lead of the game at 2-1. Again, the Panthers could only scratch across the one run as Courtesy Runner Peyton Hodge was tagged out on a rundown after he wandered too far off the bag to end the inning.
The Panthers held that lead up until the top of the 4th inning when the Vikings pulled ahead for good, taking advantage of a 1 out fielding error on shortstop Jarren Metcalf, who bobbled a ground ball from Donterian Davis. Davis would have been out had it not been for the bobble allowing him just enough time to hustle and beat the throw after Metcalf rebounded by a hair. After a stolen base and a wild pitch, Spartanburg 3rd baseman Chase Staley hit a sinking line drive to center that Devin Roe made a diving snag on mere inches from the ground that Davis tagged up on and scored, officially making the lineout a sac fly for an RBI.
Even though that was the only run Spartanburg scored in the frame, it was enough. Ian Squires shut the Panthers down for another inning and two thirds, giving way to Tripp Darwin, who pitched the rest of the way.
Squires surrendered just 2 runs (only 1 earned) on 5 hits with 2 walks and 7 strikeouts, earning him the win. Darwin pitched 1.1 shutout innings with 4 strikeouts. Only one Chapman runner reached in the final inning and a third on an E6, but he was left on 1st after Dawin bounced back with a K.
Spartanburg tacked on 2 more runs in the top of the 5th on 3 straight singles to start the inning from Tyler Stevenson, Joe Cash, and Garrett Fulmer, knocking off Chapman 4-2 to claim the series opener.
“We are getting better. The scoreboard does not define who we are. Our record does not define who we are. I could care less what our record is. All I care about is every time we come to play – every time we step between the lines, we need to be getting better. Compared to what we were against Boiling Springs a week and a half ago, against the same type of arm (as Ian Squires), we got better. I am not okay with losing, but I understand where this team is headed. We are trending in the right direction. That’s a really tough arm (Squires). He is a really good pitcher and that is who we want to see and compete against. We fear no man, no situation, no opponent. I tell them to fear God and their mama, and that’s it. We’re not always gonna be perfect and we’re not always gonna win every game. But I don’t want our guys to step in this field and feel inferior to anyone, because they are not”, said Chapman Head Coach Steven Fusaro about how his team performed in their first game since the Steve Sanders Tournament.
The Vikings were led by Andrew Dantin, who went 0 for 4 officially, but tabbed a team-high 2 RBIs. Garrett Fulmer and Chase Staley both logged an RBI a piece, with Fulmer going 1 for 3 at the dish and Staley 0-3. Tyler Stevenson went 3 for 4 with a run scored and Joe Cash tabbed a run scored on a 2-3 night.
Chapman’s leader at the plate was Cason Owens, who was 2 for 3 with a pair of singles and a run scored. Hudson Moss was 1-2 with a walk, while both Jack Settle and Wes Shipman went 1 for 2. Settle scored a run and drew a walk.
On the mound for the Panthers, Shipman took the loss, going 4 innings and surrendering 5 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), and 3 walks while striking out 4. Coleman Gray pitched 3 shutout innings to close out the game, striking out 5 with a hit and just 1 walk.
Fusaro had this to say about Shipman’s performance through his first 2 starts, adding in some praise for Coleman Gray and the depth of his pitching as well.
“He’s done a great job. To come here and his first 2 opponents be Boiling Springs and Spartan High. I told him that’s what we do. We want you to be a part of these types of situations. Facing lineups like that that are really good, and facing really talented teams – that is just going to make us better in the end. We have been excited about the way he is throwing the ball. Coleman Gray came in and he was outstanding. This team is as deep as we’ve ever had arms wise. As we continue to get better offensively, we are going to be a really good baseball team.”
The 2 game set between these 2 will conclude on Thursday night at Duncan Park with first pitch set for 6:30 PM, moved up because of some potential inclement weather on Friday, when it was originally scheduled. In spite of the short turnaround, Fusaro says he is excited about it.
“We’ve not played in a week, and baseball players like to play. I know the schedule is tough, but we are a whole lot better when we can play every night or every couple of nights. I am excited about the quick turnaround. I am excited about Jacob Cogdell taking the mound, and we are excited to compete against those guys again.”