TARBORO – Still dripping after a quick jog through the rain that dumped in buckets on Municipal Stadium in the late afternoon Friday, Tarboro’s first-year coach Chris O’Neill smiled wide and laughed at what seemed to be a fitting way to end a tournament that had its fair share of struggles.
After a late withdrawal gave a strange start to the 21st Annual Tarboro Easter Baseball Classic, the six-team tournament ended with a no decision – at least for the Vikings.
“I’m speechless, really,” O’Neill said. “I should have expected it, but at the same time, I’m just thankful that we were able to get in what we got in.”
Because of the rain, the tournament’s third-place game was cancelled after four innings, resulting in no third-place winner being named.
The championship game between Watauga and Southampton Academy (Va.) will be played today.
The time has yet to be determined, but Smith said it likely would be between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
“I’ve never ended a tournament this way,” Tarboro pitcher Wesley Hart said. “It definitely feels weird. ... It (was) definitely a weird way to end the game.”
Tarboro (8-8, 4-1 Two Rivers Conference), which has five games remaining on its regular season schedule, was leading 6-1 when the game finally was called. There was a one-hour delay before the teams retook the field in the bottom of the third.
Once the top of the fourth inning started, the rains opened up again, eventually flooding the field.
“It’s weird because, just the way things kind of fell from the beginning when I was trying to set this tournament up, I’m not really surprised that it ended that way,” Smith said.
Smith wished his team would have been able to complete the game.
He said it was his team’s best game of the season thus far.
“We’re rolling,” O’Neill said. “We’ve got a lot to play for. We’ve got a lot of goals that we want to accomplish. I know that through the second half of the conference, we are going to play really hard baseball.
“We haven’t played our best yet, but I know it’s coming.”
The Vikings jumped over puddles trying to clean up the dugouts and cover the infield. Some didn’t stay quite as dry.
Center fielder Markese Clapp mistakenly jumped into a small stream forming just outside the Tarboro locker room, and nearly every player found his fair share of sock-drenching fun.
The players even were taking requests to slide around on the muddy infield, although none obliged to a few mothers’ delights.
Dry or not, Tarboro believes it has built enough momentum through this year’s tournament, despite not finishing its final game, to remain one of the top teams in the Two Rivers Conference.
“We just have to bring the mentality we came with to this game and work hard,” Hart said.
As for the championship game, O’Neill believes that it will be the best game of a lopsided tournament, which only included one game decided by fewer than seven runs.
“When we get the game in (today), I’m really excited about that game,” O’Neill said. “I think it’s going to be a good game between two really good teams.
“I’m really excited about that game. I think it’ll be a good end to the entire tournament.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org