TARBORO – Joe Miller took one step to his right and dove into the dirt.
When he gained his composure, with the ball in his mitt, he flipped it to first in a tremendous effort play indicative of a championship-quality team.
Granted, the Vikings’ victory against Rocky Mount Prep was well concluded.
But Miller’s play – the final out in Tarboro’s 29-1 victory in the Tarboro Easter Baseball Classic – was exactly what the Vikings will need moving forward if they hope to win the tournament championship for the second straight season.
“To this town, this is a big tournament,” said Miller, Tarboro’s first baseman. “It’s a big accomplishment if we win it. It’s just real important to us.”
Tarboro (8-7, 4-1 Two Rivers Conference) will play Watauga at 7 tonight with a chance to reach the championship game with a victory and also set up a matchup with Southampton Academy.
Southampton won twice Wednesday to reach the title game scheduled for Friday night.
“It feels great to be one game closer,” first-year Tarboro coach Chris O’Neill said. “The guys came out, they played hard, they put the ball in play, they made things happen.
“Most importantly though, I liked how they were hustling throughout the game. They didn’t disrespect the game in any way.”
From the start of the game, Rocky Mount Prep (0-8, 0-5), which is in its first year of varsity competition, was overmatched.
Tarboro set a tournament record for runs (29) and hits (25) and scored 15 runs in the first three innings before adding another 14 in a 45-minute top of the fourth.
Every Viking drove in and scored at least two runs. Miller and Hunter Morris each scored five times.
“This is always a time when the guys have a little extra excitement, playing in front of everybody,” O’Neill said. “Playing under the lights on Friday, that’s a huge goal for these guys.”
With little to be decided after the top of the first inning, Tarboro remained focused.
The Vikings allowed just one hit – which helped add another inning to the game – and recorded no errors.
“We have a lot of goofy guys up here, but when it comes to playing hard, we do,” said Miller, who added that his dad always told him to play hard. “We just try to get the job done, no matter what it is.”
Despite the team’s record, Rocky Mount Prep coach Robert Jewell is seeing progress in his team.
So did the Vikings’ staff.
“They don’t see on the scoreboard the improvement, but I see it on the field,” Jewell said.
The Jaguars will play Watauga at 1 p.m. today, hoping to earn the group’s No. 2 seed.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org