Midway thumps Voyager in 1-A baseball regional
The Midway Raiders looked formidable in crushing Voyager Academy 17-1 on Saturday night at Southern High to cruise into the state 1-A championship finals with a two-game sweep of their state semifinal series.
Winning pitcher Heath Smith went the distance, scattering four hits and keeping the Vikings off balance all night with his curious sidearm delivery and even more baffling movement on the ball.
“It’s great; I never felt like this before,” Smith said of capturing the regional crown. “I just knew my defense was going to work behind me. They’ve been great all season. I just want to throw strikes and they make plays. My ball just moves a little more. It doesn’t go as fast but it moves. I guess they weren’t seeing it.”
Voyager assistant coach Alan Goodwin, who ran the team Saturday because Coach Pete Shankle was sidelined for undisclosed medical reasons, agreed.
“Slow pitching we haven’t hit great this year,” Goodwin said. “Guys who throw a little harder we hit better. It was just one of those nights.
“We had to put our No. 1 pitcher Chad Sykes on the mound tonight with two days rest and he gave all he could give us. He wasn’t sharp like he usually is.”
Sykes (10-2) had a pair of strikeouts, but gave up seven hits, walked three and hit a batter in 4.1 innings. The Vikings went to the bullpen three times but couldn’t stop the Midway bats.
“This is our second year in varsity baseball. Last year we were all freshmen and sophomores,” Goodwin said. “Next year we’ve got everybody back, so you’re talking about state runners-up and then making it to the Final Four, one step away from going back to the state championship — 21-6 is not a bad year.”
“I think our guys left last night with some doubt about whether they could hit or not. They were struggling,” said Midway coach Jason Fussell.
They dispelled that cloud Saturday, getting timely hits, a homer from center fielder Troy Spell and a grand slam from first baseman Luke Clark while nearly batting around in the lineup twice in the sixth inning.
“We’re going to enjoy it till Tuesday, then we’re going to start working on (West champion) South Stanly. They’ve been there many times so they know how to play it,” Fussell said.
South Stanly swept Voyager a year ago in the state championship series.
Midway jumped all over Sykes in the first inning, smacking three singles for a pair of runs. Smith and catcher Kyle Hawley got back-to-back singles, and left fielder Cody Baker was hit by a pitch to load the bases. The Vikings got first baseman Luke Clark on a force at home, but right fielder Matt Barefoot drilled a single to plate Hawley and Baker.
Midway picked up another run in the second, when center fielder Troy Spell pounded a one-out double and scored on a bleeder single by shortstop Taylor Calcutt that trickled between shortstop and third base.
The Raiders chased Sykes in the fourth after he issued consecutive walks to Calcutt and Smith, and Hawley banged a single to score Calcutt, making it 4-0. Sykes had been lighting up the radar gun at 85 mph, but was slowing to 80 and increasingly missed the plate with both his fastball and looping curve.
Midway made it 5-0 when Baker hit a dink in front of the plate and relief pitcher Kaleb Truehart tossed it away trying to get Smith safely racing home. But the Vikings caught Hawley in a rundown between second and third on the play and then first baseman Luke Clark flied out to end the threat.
The Vikings got on the board in the bottom of the fifth after second baseman Jake Olimpo knocked a frozen rope double to left center, moved to third on a groundout by right fielder Nick Batten, and came home on a groundout by Truehart.
The Raiders put the game out of reach in the sixth with a 12–run spree. Truehart walked Calcutt and Smith, Hawley’s double scored Calcutt, and a throwing error by third baseman Loy Stone on Baker’s grounder allowed Smith and Hawley to score. Viking left fielder Colten Faucette misplayed a fly ball, and Baker, who reached third on the throwing error, dashed home.
Barefoot then walked, Clark scored on a groundout by third baseman Jansen Wrench and designated hitter Tyler Pope was hit by a pitch. Spell hit a three-run homer to left to clear the bases and make it 13-1.
Clark followed that with a grand slam to left after Smith reached on a single, Hawley and Baker walked, giving the Raiders a 17-1 lead.
The 10-run mercy rule was invoked, ending the game after six innings.
Midway 17, Voyager 1
Heath Smith and Kyle Hawley; Chad Sykes, Kaleb Truehart (4), Jake Olimpo (6), Kiki Kornegay (6) and Hunter Coates. WP—Heath Smith (7-1); LP—Chad Sykes (10-2). Leading hitters—Midway, Matt Barefoot 3-3 (2B ), Heath Smith 2-2, Kyle Hawley 3-4 (2B, 2 RBI), Troy Spell 2-4 (HR, 2B, 3 RBI), Taylor Calcutt (1-2, 1 RBI), Luke Clark 1-5 (HR, 4 RBI); Voyager, Loy Stone 2-3, Jake Olimpo 1-2 (2B), Kiki Kornegay 1-2.
Records—Voyager 21-6, Midway 26-3.