Rowan County’s 5-0 win over Bath County in Monday night’s 61st District championship was all business.
One would think that the Vikings’ sixth straight District Championship would been reason for celebration, but the team packed up like it was any other the game. The Vikings remained focused on a much larger goal, winning the region and a chance at the state title.
“It is awesome we keep getting these district titles but that’s not really our goal. I don’t want to be unappreciative of it, but we are just trying to focus on region and get to the state tournament,” said Rowan County ace AJ Hacker.
Hacker has pitched the last three district championships for the Vikings, all three against Bath County. It was also the second time the Vikings pitched Hacker against the Wild Cats this season.
Hacker threw an incredible 18 strikeouts in the first game against Bath County allowing the Vikings to win 1-0. His Monday night performance was hardly as flashy but Hacker knew just what had to be done.
“I don’t know by looking at him that he had his best stuff tonight, but that is the thing about AJ. He is going to battle night in and night out. So, great performance on his part,” said Rowan County head coach Scott Collins.
Hacker threw 11 strike outs and gave up only one hit during six innings on the mound. Nathan Davis had the only hit for Bath County in the fourth inning.
With bases loaded in the fourth and only a three-run lead, Hacker struck out Bath County’s James Fraley, Jake Porter and Austin McFarland to get the Vikings out the the inning unscathed.
“That was real stressful on me. I probably got a few grey hairs from that. But once we got those bases loaded, I knew I had to bare down and do the thing I am good at, throwing strikes and getting guys out,” said Hacker.
He sat another three in the sixth inning before being relieved by Corey Binion in the seventh. Binion ended the game striking out his first three batters faced.
The Vikings warmed up the bats by the second inning to give the Vikings some assurance. Devon Stevens got the inning going with a hard hit ball to centerfield. He was batted in by Ryan Mullen who singled to center field and advanced to second on the throw. Mason Moore scored on the same play to put the Vikings up two runs going into the third.
The Vikings scored runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth inning to end the game with five runs.
“We knew going into the season we were going to have a pretty good pitching staff. It was matter of whether we could field it and hit it. Once we got all those things clicking, we have become a pretty daggone good baseball team,” said Collins.
Moore had his best plate performance all year. He went three-for-three and scored three runs in his first district championship with the Vikings.
“We just had one common goal tonight, put the in play and make them make plays. I think I did that really well tonight, three-for-three and gave our pitcher some assurance runs,” said Moore.
Mullen, also at the bottom of the lineup for the Vikings, went two-for-three at the plate.
“We had some guys step up tonight that we don’t always see step up. It was just an all around team effort,” said Collins.
Shane Taylor and Matthew Gagliano were both two-for-four to give the Vikings a total of 10 hits.
Both teams will advance to the regional tournament this Saturday at Raceland.