Seven errors, struggles at plate haunt VHS in defeat

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Put it down as perhaps the quickest scouting report of the 2006 postseason. Pope John Paul head coach Mark Homburg arrived at the park, saw the billboards and the short fence and figured Vidalia was ready to jump on the fastball.

So he went with his off-speed throwing No. 1 starter Sean Turner.

Homburg didn&8217;t find out whom his club was going to face until 7:30 p.m. Friday, and no one was around after that to answer the phone and give a scouting report. They left at 9 a.m. Monday not knowing much of anything.

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Turner threw a gem with his curveball and changeup, and the Jaguars took advantage of seven Vidalia errors to take a 5-2 win over the Vikings in a Class 2A second-round playoff game.

&8220;I had heard they&8217;ve got a real good hitting lineup,&8221; Homburg said. &8220;They swing the bats well, and we played pretty good baseball. Sean is an off-speed pitcher and tops out at 78-80 and hits 81 occasionally. He&8217;s real good with his control. He kept them in check.&8221;

The Vikings&8217; inability to connect at the plate and make plays on the defensive end put the game in the Jaguars&8217; hands early. The Vikings six errors in the second, third and fourth innings were partly to blame for Pope&8217;s 4-1 lead.

The only earned run charged to starter Will Thomas was Nathan Bonnet&8217;s solo homer to lead off the sixth. The Vikings finished the game with seven errors and the season with an 18-7 record.

The loss marked the third straight year the Vikings have lost in the second round of the playoffs.

&8220;The Achilles heel popped on us &8212; our defense &8212; and that&8217;s been it all year,&8221; VHS head coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir said. &8220;Of course, if you don&8217;t score but two runs, you&8217;re not going to win much in high school baseball. That pitcher had us off balance all day. I give credit to the pitcher. We couldn&8217;t get anything going and left some runners on early.&8221;

The Vikings didn&8217;t see many fastballs from Taylor, who may have thrown more curves and changeups than straight heaters. Then again, his straight fastball didn&8217;t look that much different from his changeup.

Of the Vikings&8217; 21 outs, 13 were on flyouts.

&8220;I got lucky that this team was aggressive,&8221; said Taylor, who had only two strikeouts. &8220;Lucky for me, they swung at everything. Coach told me before the game they were a pull-hitting team and if I&8217;d go inside they&8217;d hit it over the fence. The defense played well. If it wasn&8217;t for the defense, it would have been a different ball game.&8221;

Taylor used his control to hammer at the outside corner with the fastball and changeup and forcing the Vikings to hit it off the end of the bat. Their only rally came in the seventh when Will Thomas doubled in Jordan Brewer after Brewer led off the inning with a single.

But Taylor got Tyler Bruce to fly out to short, Trey Keith to ground out to third to score Brewer and Shayne Knapp to fly out to left to end the game.

&8220;He kept us off balance,&8221; said center fielder Trey Keith, who had two hits. &8220;Everybody was capping him. I went 2-for-4, but the two I didn&8217;t get, I capped. Everybody was popping up off of him. But errors killed us. We played one of our worst ball games all year in a game we had to have.&8221;

But the errors told the other part of the story, one that could have realistically been a 1-1 game through six if it wasn&8217;t for the errors. In the second, Chris Turner reached base courtesy of an error and came around to score.

In the third Zach Pohto singled, went to second when a pickoff throw to first went high and scored on an error on Cory Senez&8217;s grounder. Senez went to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored when a fly ball fell in in the outfield.

&8220;We were fortunate to capitalize on some of their errors and get a couple of timely hits,&8221; Homburg said. &8220;That happens in the playoffs. With our team, we&8217;re not a big power-hitting team. For us to be successful, we have to play small ball. You put pressure on the defense and hope they crack before you do.&8221;

The Jaguars put up another in the fourth when Cory Felger led off the inning by reaching on an error, moving to second on a passed ball and scoring on Andrew Gandy&8217;s single. From there, however, the Vikings had just one error, and they compensated for it when catcher Cameron Ainsworth threw the guy out trying to steal to end the fourth.

Despite the Jaguars&8217; four hits, the damage was already done.

&8220;We&8217;ll do it again next year,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;The kids played real hard. I told the kids, &8216;We got beat, but it wasn&8217;t because we didn&8217;t give our best effort.&8217; You can look at it any way, but we didn&8217;t play good defense &8212; and that&8217;s our weak spot. We got the pitching. But in a one-game series, there&8217;s no margin for error.&8221;