Hoggard ball club builds confidence with tourney title; Wildcats coming into form

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Coming off their only setback of the year, the Hoggard baseball team continued a strong showing over the last eight days as the Vikings grabbed the 2016 Ashley High School Spring Break Tournament Championship following a 4-1 victory against New Hanover.

After dropping the conference opener to West Brunswick on March 15, Hoggard grabbed an impressive result at Whiteville and extended its win streak to five straight Wednesday night with its third triumph in as many days.

Rob Wilkerson. Photos by Joe Catenacci
Rob Wilkerson. Photos by Joe Catenacci

“Hopefully, we’ve settled into a groove and real proud of our effort over the last week,” said Hoggard Coach Jeep St. Ledger. “We had some piece things together from a pitching standpoint early, but it looks like we might be figuring it out.”

Junior Rob Wilkerson logged just four innings over the course of Hoggard’s first nine games to help work his way into the rotation once basketball season came to an end. The right-hander got the call against the Wildcats to close the week away from school and turned out a complete game performance marked by six strikeouts, allowing only one run.

Hoggard had a three-run cushion after rallying in the fourth and used a key play in the sixth when Matthew Suggs threw out a New Hanover base runner on the back end of a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play.

“The mindset going into this game was to be aggressive, attack the zone and let the defense do the work,” said Wilkerson. “All the credit goes to the defense. It’s easy to get rattled and important to stay with your approach.”

The Vikings took that momentum into their half of the inning and added a late insurance run on an RBI double by Hunter Gaylord.

Sam Schmidt.
Sam Schmidt

Second baseman Sam Schmidt was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, going 5-for-8 at the plate this week, with 4 RBIs and four runs scored.

The Wildcats managed to score one run in the top of the seventh, but fell short in their first contest against Hoggard this season. New Hanover used the week to get a good look at their club moving back into conference play and are coming out of it excited about getting back to work.

“Each year during this tournament we like to shift some things around, throw some guys into different situations they might not be used to and some things didn’t go our way, but the effort was there,” said New Hanover Assistant Coach Erik Bron. “We just talked to the guys about using this as a learning experience for a young team. Coach Foy has been saying all season, ‘we’re going to win or we’re going to learn. We’re not going to lose’.”

Freshman Blake Walston threw seven innings for New Hanover in his first time on the mound this season, with classmate Kyle Smith behind the dish. The Wildcats have a good mix of youth and experience moving back into league action. They’ll have an immediate chance to get the bad taste out of their mouths come next week as New Hanover faces Hoggard again on March 29 at Buck Hardee Field.

The Wildcats fell to 7-2 overall and Hoggard moved to 9-1 on the year. The Vikings were the first New Hanover County team to win the Ashley Spring Break tournament in 2010. They became the first among county clubs to grab the title twice after Wednesday’s contest.

“We were trying to bounce back after the game against West,” said Schmidt. “We feel like if we play our game we can compete with anybody.”

Box Score

New Hanover        000   000   1

Hoggard                010   200  X

WP: Rob Wilkerson                           LP: Blake Walston