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Hoggard claims Mideastern title

Hoggard teammates await Connor Autry (8) at home plate after Autry hit his second home run of the second inning, a grand slam, to put Hoggard up 10-0 against Ashley at Hoggard on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (Photo by Matt Born)

Given the chance to secure the Mideastern Conference baseball title Tuesday night, Hoggard left no doubt.

The Vikings needed any kind of win against second-place Ashley to clinch the conference title, and they got a big one. Hoggard’s 10-run second inning sparked a short-game 10-0 victory against the Screaming Eagles.

“To me, it was just the one inning,” Hoggard coach Jeep St. Ledger said. “We’ve been not quite on the flip side of that, but you’re never quite as good as you are when you win and you’re never as bad as you are in defeat. … We had a great inning.”

Senior Connor Autry bookended Hoggard’s second-inning explosion with a pair of home runs. He blasted the first pitch he saw over the left-center field fence for a one-out solo home run off Ashley starter Eric Eason. By the time Autry came up again, Ashley had changed pitchers, given up five more runs and still had the bases loaded with just one out.

“I was just trying not to pop out,” Autry said. “I didn’t want to look goofy swinging and popping out and not getting runs across.”

Autry ended up the opposite of goofy. He hit a high fly ball that carried and cleared the same left-center fence for a grand slam, giving him two home runs and five runs batted in for the inning.

If Ashley was hoping to rally, Hoggard pitcher Bryan Sammons refused to oblige. Following the 10-run inning by Hoggard (16-3, 8-1), Sammons retired the Ashley (13-7, 5-4) lineup on just seven pitches.

Sammons gave up one hit in five innings of work. He struck out seven and improved to 9-0 on the season.

Sammons worked Ashley with a mix of high fastballs.

“The way the pitching sequence went, it was just how it worked out,” Sammons said. “I trust my stuff enough that if I throw strikes I’ll be able to get them out.”

The win takes any drama out of Hoggard’s final game of the season against New Hanover. Had the Vikings lost Tuesday, they would have had to win Friday to clinch their third conference title in four years.

That the win came against Ashley, which has battled Hoggard for the Mideastern Conference title for the past few years, made Tuesday night’s win even sweeter.

“They had us last year,” Autry said.

“I think they beat us 4-1 here last year, and we just didn’t want that to happen again. We just wanted to jump on them.”

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