Sykes leads Voyager Academy into 4th round of playoffs
The Voyager Academy baseball team was locked in a seesaw battle in its third-round North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoff game against Wallace-Rose Hill on Tuesday night.
That was until Chad Sykes, one of eight seniors on the team, forced the issue, aggressively scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning as his team won 4-3 at Duke University’s Jack Coombs Field.
“The key is that we’re an aggressive baseball team,” Voyager coach Pete Shankle said. “In that case, you had two teams battling and which ever team made the mistake was going to lose the ball game.
“And they (the Bulldogs) made it.”
There had been either a lead change or run scored to tie the game five times going into the bottom of the sixth inning.
Sykes had reached base on a walk, and advanced to second on John Saunders’ sacrifice bunt. On the next at bat, Hunter Coates hit the ball modestly to the shortstop. Sykes not only ran to third, but rounded the bag, forcing a throw from the Wallace-Hill shortstop.
The throw was off the mark, skipping past the third baseman allowing Sykes to score what would be the game-winning run.
“At first I thought about going home if it had gone through,” said Sykes of the play that led to the game-winning run. “But it hadn’t, so I just wanted to round it to make him look at me instead of going to first.
“It was kind of stupid on my part, but it worked out.”
Voyager had taken an early lead. Coates singled with two outs in the first and Kiki Kornegay followed with a triple to the gap in left centerfield which bounced swiftly to the fence on the field’s synthetic turf, knocking in Coates to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
But Wallace-Rose Hill came back, Emmit Herring’s triple knocking in a run to cap a two-run top of the third to give the Bulldogs the lead.
Sykes took over the pitching duties after that, and mostly shut down the Bulldogs’ bats. He gave up only one run — in the fourth inning — while striking out eight and retiring the last seven batters in a row.
“I want to get back there (the state championship series) and win it,” said Sykes, referencing the team’s loss to South Stanly two games to none in the Class 1-A title series at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in 2012 — the school’s first season of varsity competition. “That’s been our goal the whole season.”