HAYS — The East Wilkes Cardinals traveled to Hays on Wednesday night for an important Mountain Valley Athletic Conference match-up against the North Wilkes Vikings. It was a game that went to eight innings and saw the Cardinals come away with an important 3-2 win.
“We played well enough to win,” said East Wilkes head coach Bradley Hayes. “I’m tickled for the boys because it was a hard-fought game that went into extra innings. It was a cold night, and the bats were not going for us. To be able to stay in there and stay within striking distance and then come through in the extra inning, that’s always a good win.”
The Cardinals got off to a slow start, as they only had one hit in the opening inning. Bryce Vestal put down a ground ball to third base for a single. Vestal was able to steal second, but that was as far as he would go as the Cardinals were unable to keep up the hits.
North was able to capitalize in the bottom of the first inning, as the Vikings scored one run to take a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the second inning, East Wilkes was able to earn one hit. Absher found a fly ball hit to right field but once again the Cardinals couldn’t bring him around the bases.
Bryce Vestal was put in as the relief pitcher in the bottom of the second inning. Vestal came in and put down five strikes in a row. The Cardinals were able to get out of a pickle as Vestal struck out the next North Wilkes batter to keep the score 1-0.
East Wilkes continued to struggle in the batter’s box, as the Cardinals went three-up three-down in the third inning. The Cardinals were once again able to get out of a jam in the bottom of the inning. With two outs on the board and runners on second and third, East Wilkes picked off a Viking who was caught in a pickle for the third out.
Vestal started off the fourth inning with a hard hit ball into right field. Vestal then stole second and third to put the tying run in scoring position. On a 1-2 count, Tate Weatherman was able to put down a hit to left field which brought Vestal in to score. The Cardinals were able to tie the game 1-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Cardinals put down an impressive three-up three-down in the bottom of the inning. Vestal put down two strikeouts to start off the inning. With two outs, Caeden Howell was able to throw out the runner as he was heading to second. Howell tossed his catchers helmet and found the glove of Sean Sidden who tagged out the runner.
The game came to a stall on both sides of the field, as neither team was able to score in the next few innings. North Wilkes came close to scoring in the sixth inning, but the Cardinals were able to get the third out to get out of a jam. In the top of the seventh, East Wilkes put two runners on base but were unable to bring them into score. North Wilkes put one runner on in the bottom of the seventh, but the Cardinals put down a strong defensive performance to make the third out and put the game into extra innings.
In the eighth inning, East Wilkes came out swinging. Sidden started off the inning with a single to center field. Sidden stole second and third base to put himself in scoring position. Howell stepped up to the plate and knocked the ball to second base for an RBI. Sidden was able to cross home plate and the Cardinals had a 2-1 lead. East Wilkes kept going in the box as Vestal was walked, and stole second. Weatherman was able to advance Vestal to third on his pop fly to right field. Brandon Church stepped up to the plate and knocked the ball into center field to bring Vestal across the plate for a 3-1 East Wilkes lead.
With two outs on the board, North Wilkes was able to knock in one run in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 3-2 score. East Wilkes was able to put down the third out easily, as Vestal threw a hard strike down the middle for a strikeout. The Cardinals were able to hang on to take a 3-2 MVAC win over North Wilkes.
“Coming into this game we were in second place,” said Hayes. “We’re trying not to focus on where we are at and where everybody else is (in the conference). We’ve just got to take, as cliche as it sounds, one day at a time. We’ve got to keep playing hard and keep riding our little winning streak.”