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Hoggard wins baseball playoff opener

Jack Faircloth (9) celebrates a run with teammates as Hoggard High School hosts Pine Forest's baseball team in the opening round of the state playoffs Thursday May 9, 2013. (Photo by Photo by Paul Stephen)

After Hoggard's 4-0 defeat of Fayetteville Pine Forest in the first round of the NCHSAA 4A baseball playoffs Thursday night, Vikings coach Jeep St. Ledger dropped his voice.

"Was it me," St. Ledger said, "Or did Sammons look off tonight?"

Bryan Sammons, Hoggard's starting pitcher, did in fact look a bit off. He needed 26 pitches to get out of the first inning and barely escaped a bases-loaded jam in the opening frame.

That didn't stop him from twirling a complete-game two-hitter, striking out eight and improving to 10-0 on the season.

"I just tried to throw strikes," Sammons said. "Occasionally, you're going to be a little wild, but you try to control it as much as you can."

The idea that Sammons would be off is a foreign one this season for Hoggard (18-3). Beyond just winning games, in his last three starts Sammons has thrown 18 shutout innings with just three hits and 27 strikeouts.

Of that stretch, Tuesday night was the toughest. Sammons opened the first inning searching for the strike zone and gave up a walk and a hit to lead off the game. He walked the bases loaded but struck out the side to escape unscathed.

Outside of that one-inning hiccup, Sammons was his usual untouchable self. He retired 13 straight batters to keep Pine Forest's offense in check.

Hoggard's hitters gave Sammons enough run support, including two doubles from John Wilson and some opportunistic base running in a critical third inning.

"Our coach came in and told us that we needed to jump on these guys early," Wilson said. "I think we just battled away until we got the runs, the hits and the walks. That's what counts."

Wilson's first double off the left-center field wall brought home a run in the first inning, but the Vikings wanted to knock Pine Forest (11-15) out early. They certainly had chances: the leadoff batter reached base four times.

The big swing came in the third when Wilson doubled again, followed by a double off the fence from Sammons. Two Pine Forest errors brought in two more Hoggard runs to put the Vikings in cruise control the rest of the game.

"Sammons stepped up a lot giving us some support," Wilson said. "And our run support helped him as well."

With the win, Hoggard moves on to host Clayton, which defeated Laney on Thursday.

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