In the moments after losing any championship event, the accomplishments achieved during the season are a distant memory. Even the positives from that game or series can escape your thoughts. Let me remind West Columbus coaches, players and fans that they have much to be proud of.
After a tough, 10-inning, walk-off win at home against Northside-Pinetown, the Vikings did much like their mascot did in the eighth through 11th centuries. They traveled to northeastern North Carolina and raided opponents baseball teams, taking their most important possession, victory.
The Vikings demolished higher-seeded Perquimans and Bear Grass Charter in the span of a week. Game one of the 1A East Region championship was not the Vikings finest moment, but the response was. A game two win over the Riverside Knights played at Whiteville’s Legion Stadium preceded a game three demolition of the Knights’ castle by a 11-0 score and an Eastern championship.
Through all the travel (approximately 1200 miles), rain delays and just plain nerves that come with the baseball playoffs, the Vikings played their game. Sometimes it wasn’t pretty. However, one of the team’s major positives was the ability to make mistakes and still find a way to prevent opponents from capitalizing on them. Strong pitching and a timely and often explosive offense paved the way to the Eastern championship.
The Murphy Bulldogs were a different animal than anything the Vikings had faced during their playoff success. Murphy had redemption on its mind. The Bulldogs came within one strike of forcing a game three in the 2017 1A championship series against Whiteville. Seven players who played significant roles in 2017 returned and the Bulldog roster was bolstered by Hayesville transfers Lucas and Nathan Barolet.
Despite the postponement of Friday’s game and a weather delay during game one Saturday, The Vikings put up a good fight. I mean, what’s a little inclement weather to a Viking! They came out strong in games one and two, taking early leads. Murphy, sporting some amazing offensive stats, stayed with its game, eventually taking the lead and victory.
Confidence was a key, not that West Columbus wasn’t, but Murphy was extremely aware of its capabilities and never panicked. When playing that type of team, mistakes (physical and mental) are magnified. Still, West Columbus came within three outs of forcing a game three on Sunday.
There was a feeling after the title-clinching game two Murphy win that the Bulldogs took what was theirs. West Columbus was certainly disappointed, but with a large nucleus of players returning, 2019 looks promising. Vikings coaches and players should have been able to see Murphy’s championship season as something they can accomplish next season. West Columbus baseball knocked on the door in 2018 the first time since 2006. There is no reason they can’t kick it open next year.
Viking Nation did itself proud. The largest contingent of fans for any of the four schools playing in Burlington wore light blue. They were loud and supported their Vikings during every pitch. They certainly had a team worth cheering for.