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Vikings Go 2-1 Against Cavs to Claim City Rivalry

The annual city rivalry series was played a little earlier in the season than usual this year, having taken place over the course of the last week. This series was a little different from usual in that both of these squads came into the week in similar situations.


Dorman, who was a heavy favorite to win region 2-5A in the preseason and ranked in the top 10, was struggling to put it all together, having dropped 3 of their last 4 games and bringing up the rear in the standings at 0-2 after dropping their region-opening series to Boiling Springs. With just 7 straight region games to play following Spring Break this coming week, the Cavaliers seemingly still had plenty of time to turn things around, yet somehow it simultaneously felt like they were running out of time.


Spartanburg came into the series with a lot less pressure on them from their preseason expectations. The Vikings were a surprise team a year ago in their first season under Jesse Dyar. However, they returned three pieces from last season’s team – most notably sophomore shortstop States Farr, who missed the first few weeks of the season with an injury. They started the season 3-8 overall, having been swept in their first 2-5A series by the current 1st place Byrnes Rebels. Their second region series of the season resulted in dropping the first 2 to the Gaffney Indians before getting off the schneid by salvaging the finale 9-8. That one win was enough to ensure entering rivalry week in 4th place.


Despite the record, the Vikings have shown to have some offensive prowess in the early going. They beat North Augusta in the first non-tournament game of the season 8-4, won a 15-10 slugfest against a Chapman team that has been giving 5A opponents fits all season long, and in the three game set with Gaffney, fell 13-11 in the opener to go with their win in game three.


In short, with both teams in a rut at the bottom of the standings, this series was a crucial opportunity for the winner to not only break the monotony of their season’s respective starts and gain the annual bragging rights, but also potentially secure a playoff spot. The implications were larger than they have been in a while.


The series got off to an interesting start on Monday night at Duncan Park. Bray Parton was thrust into the starting role for the Cavaliers. Freshman Connor Wells had been their game 1 starter up to this point, but according to Dorman Head Coach Jack Jolly, he felt that with Bray’s experience he could give the Cavs the most innings while Connor could be a boost to the bullpen if needed for Monday and Friday’s games. Unfortunately for Dorman, Parton struggled with his command from the beginning. He threw over 20 pitches in the first, getting into deep counts and issuing a couple of free passes. In the end, he managed to get out of the jam with just 2 runs worth of damage, but in the end, the Vikings took the opener 5-2.


The series headed to Sims Field in Roebuck on Wednesday night, and the Vikings picked up right where they left off. They got 2 runners on and drew first blood on an RBI single with 2 out in the top of the 1st. They later added on with another run-scoring base knock. The Cavs escaped the jam on a sharp grounder to third that went for a fielders choice 5 unassisted to retire the side.


It didn’t take long for the Cavs to ‘answer runs with runs’, as Palmer Hornick led off with a double past the diving center fielder EJ Grant. Following a sac bunt to move him to 3rd, he would score with ease as Colton Earnhardt raced to third on a liner to center that dropped past the outstretched glove of Grant. Coleman Brown tied it with 2 out, lacing the first pitch he saw from Viking starter Andrew Babbi into center for an RBI single. He would be left on after a pop up to short, leading to the 2-2 tie holding until the top of the 3rd inning when Spartanburg’s Taylor Jeter doubled with 1 out and came home on a single just past the third base bag from Tyler Stephenson. Bolen Fields lined to left to retire the side, but the Vikings took the 3-2 advantage to the bottom of the frame.


Dorman struck again in the bottom of the 4th inning by hanging a 2 spot on a pair of RBI doubles from Coleman Brown and Aaron Sturgill to go up 4-3 before once again Spartanburg tied things up in the 5th on a States Farr single and an RBI double to follow from Taylor Jeter. Dorman threatened in the bottom of the inning, getting 2 in scoring position with 2 out before Coleman Brown went down swinging to leave them there.


The Vikings took the lead for good in the top of the 7th inning, which started with back to back walks to States Farr and Taylor Jeter. Bolen Fields grounded into a very unconventional double play to score the go-ahead run, grounding to short. There looked to be only one play at 1st, and got the out there, scoring Farr. On the throw to first, Jeter tried to take third, but was gunned out 3-2-5 to send the game to the bottom of the 7th, where EJ Grant worked around a leadoff bloop single from Clay Crossley to secure the series win and the game for the Vikings 5-4.


Although the series was already lost for the Cavaliers as they headed back to Duncan Park on Friday night, there was still a lot riding on the game for Dorman if they could find a way to salvage the finale. Christian Hardigree got the nod on the bump for the Vikings, while Dorman would start Logan McGarity. Hardigree worked around a leadoff single to Palmer Hornick, while McGarity struggled in the bottom of the frame. He faced just three batters and didn’t retire a single one, walking 2 and hitting another. He gave way to Cross Jenkinson, who prevented a big inning by surrendering just 1 run (charged to McGarity) on a sac fly from Tyler Stephenson. He struck out Bolen Fields looking and got Liam Nettles to fly to  right to leave runners on the corners.


Spartanburg added on to their lead in the bottom of the 2nd after Connor Wells recorded a couple of quick strikeouts. After that, he walked the next 2 and gave up a single to States Farr. A wild pitch scored Davion Hurst before Taylor Jeter walked to reload the bases for Tyler Stephenson, who also drew a walk to plate EJ Grant. Campbell Whitener would end up coming on to stop the bleeding for the Cavaliers, shutting the Vikings down over the next several innings, affording the Cavs the opportunity to chip their way back from the early 3-0 deficit.


Dorman didn’t take their time to erase that deficit, as they chased Hardigree out of the game with a 5 spot in the top of the 3rd. He gave up a leadoff single to Jackson Pruitt and consecutive walks to Hornick and Crossley before being taken down for Liam Nettles, who tossed just a third of an inning himself, issuing a bases loaded walk to Colton Earnhardt and inducing a pop up to short. He was taken down for Tyler Stephenson, who would grind out the rest of the game for the Vikings. Of the 5 runs the Cavaliers scored, 3 earned were charged to Hardigree while Nettles was charged with just 1 – enough to stick him with the loss. Dorman would score 2 more off Stephenson in the top of the 6th, as the Cavaliers managed to get a much-needed 7-3 victory.


“When things didn’t start well tonight, we could have crumbled up, but the guys did not panic or tighten up. They kept believing and finally broke it open in the third inning. That is a testament to their chemistry and character”, said Jack Jolly of Dorman’s perseverance in breaking their region losing skid.


If you stick around after games, or even paid attention in the middle of games, during this rough run of games for the Cavaliers, Coach Jolly has been known to huddle his guys up and talk to them a lot. Asked about his message to the team through all this, he gave the following answer.


“We talked about weathering the storm, and what adjustments we needed to make at the plate to be successful. We also told them not to be satisfied, don’t try to do too much, and add on/extend the lead. We have been telling them to be consistent in their preparation so that they will be consistent in their performance, reminding them of who they were early on when we were winning, and to stay positive and don’t give up. After all, we weren’t playing badly, just not good enough to win. We pointed out the little things that kept us from being successful and told them to stay together, relax, and just play because when this ends, we will be better for it.”


Though Dorman salvaging the finale was huge for them, the bigger story and the credit belong to Spartanburg for winning the series.


“I am really proud of my boys this week. They competed at a very high level all week. I hated that we could not close out the week with a sweep. The message all year has been to control what we can. We had a tough start with States Farr out due to injury. We are also very young in a lot of spots. But, they have been learning what it takes to win, and it was great to see their hard work pay off this week”, said Spartanburg Head Coach Jesse Dyar.


“This is a huge series win and any series that you win in this region is huge. You have to bring your best every week or you will be humbled. We’re fighting to get into the playoffs, and every win comes at a premium”, Dyar later added of the significance of taking 2 from their bitter rivals.


This week, both teams take a step out of the region with Spring Break. The Vikings host the Sparkle City Classic, where they will take on Christ Church Saturday and Chapman on Monday. Dorman will play Airport, Oceanside Collegiate, and River Bluff with 3 games in 3 days starting Monday at 11 am.

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