Voyager pulls away from Unicorns
N.C. Science & Math posed a problem, and it took four innings for Voyager Academy to solve it with a 6-1 win Tuesday.
Chad Sykes (6-1) pitched a complete game for the Vikings (11-4, 7-2 Carolina 12), allowing one unearned run on three hits while striking out six and walking one.
The ace of last year’s 1-A state runners-up was more than matched early on by Unicorns starter David Cuppett (2-4).
While NCSSM (3-7, 3-6) used a pair of hits and a walk to threaten Sykes in the first inning, Voyager did nothing until the third. The only blemish on Cuppett through two innings was an infield single by Hunter Coates in the first, and he was erased trying to steal second.
“Sykes just wasn’t spotting his fastball early,” Voyager coach Pete Shankle said of his star’s first-inning struggles. “He usually throws 83 to 85 (mph), but they were getting around on him.”
Voyager scratched out the game’s first run in the top of the third. Nick Batten (1-2) led off with a single, was sacrificed to second by Dylan Vincent and went to third on a ground out by Kiki Kornegay.
Sykes (1-2) walked to put runners on the corners and was trying to steal second when NCSSM catcher Kyle Lee’s throw went into center field for an error, allowing Batten to score. A perfect throw from center fielder Quinten Stewart to Jacob Nester nailed Sykes at third for the final out.
The Unicorns took advantage of a pair of Voyager miscues to tie it in their half of the third. Coltyn Faucette dropped Trey Faddis’ deep drive to left center with two outs for a two-base error, and Lee followed with a soft liner just over Sykes’ head and in front of shortstop Loy Stone that froze Faddis at second.
Stone bare-handed the ball and appeared to have thrown out Lee at first, but his throw slipped past first baseman A.J. Lemoine and down the line allowing Faddis to score NCSSM’s only run.
Voyager solved Cuppett in the fourth. Hunter Coates (2-for-4) and Loy “Bubba” Stone (2-for-3) led off with singles, Stone’s to deep center looking like a double all the way, but Coates stumbled approaching second and had to hold there. Faucette walked to load the bases, and Jake Olimpo drove in Coates and Stone with a single to left.
Olimpo and Faucette advanced to second and third when left fielder Jacob Bringewatt failed to come up with the Olimpo’s hit cleanly, and Faucette scored on a wild pitch by Cuppett for a 4-1 Vikings lead.
“We came out and played pretty well, and Cuppett was pitching well,” NCSSM coach Michael Mitchell said. “But they’re a good team.”
Voyager tacked on an unearned run in the top of the fifth when Sykes, who had singled, scored on a wild pitch. The Vikings closed out the scoring with a two-out RBI double by Stone in the top of the seventh plating Sykes, who had walked for the second time.
Cuppett — eight hits, six runs, three earned, four walks three wild pitches — went all the way in the loss, throwing about 120 pitches.
Sykes was throwing hard late and was barely touched after giving up the run in the third. He retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced, giving up only a double to Lee in the sixth. Bringewatt reached on a two-out error in the seventh by Lemoine.
“Because of what we did last year, teams come out pretty excited to play us,” Shankle said. “Sometimes we don’t come out as excited as we should. Don’t get me wrong, (NCSSM) did a nice job. They made plays on us early, they swung the bats well. We weren’t just going through the motions, but we need to be more excited.”
NOTES — Voyager, a charter school which does not have its own field, practices and plays its home games at Southern. Voyager will host the Spartans today at Southern at 7 p.m. Stone (2-2), who starred on the mound during the 2012 state runner-up season, is the likely starter for Voyager.
Voyager 6, NCSSM 1
Chad Sykes and Hunter Coates; David Cuppett and Kyle Lee. WP—Sykes 6-1; LP—Cuppett 2-4. Leading hitters—Voyager, Coates 2-4, Loy Stone 2-3 (2B, RBI), Jake Olimpo 1-3 (2 RBI); NCSSM Lee 1-3 (2B).
Records—Voyager 11-4, 7-2 Carolina 12; N.C. School of Science and Mathematics 3-7, 3-6.