Airline has shuffled and reshuffled a young lineup this season, but the blossoming Vikings continued their hot streak Friday with a 5-2 win against Captain Shreve.
Pitcher Kyle Backofen threw six scoreless innings before running into trouble in the seventh, but the Vikings (15-14, 8-3 District 1-5A) held on for their fifth straight district win and eighth victory in the last 10 games.
“Kyle is a consistent pitcher even though he’s still young,” Airline coach Toby Todd said of his sophomore. “He’s got good stuff, and even though he’s not overpoweting, he’s a little deceiving because he’s a little bitty toot but throws pretty well.
“For the most part, we’ve had trouble scoring in his games. He pitched in a lot of difficult tournament games early in the season.”
With district leader Byrd (17-12, 8-3) losing to Southwood 6-3 on Friday, the Vikings and Yellow Jackets are tied on top of the district standings. Byrd won the season series 2-1 in the first weekend of district play to earn the tiebreaker.
Cameron Taylor, who scored a run and reached base three times Friday, will get the start Saturday as the Vikings attempt their second sweep this season.
“We’ve just got to step up and do it,” Taylor said of the opportunity to keep pace in the district. “I’ve been up and down this season (on the mound), but I want to mix it up and throw strikes.
“On offense, we’re getting more runners on base. We refocused our goals … and we’re comfortable in our roles now.”
Airline knew what to do with their available runners Friday, scoring two runs in the second and three in the fifth inning to build a 5-0 lead.
Hayden Waxley singled in the two second-inning runs. Jarrett Bamburg doubled in Taylor before Will Goodwin singled in a run and Dylan Elliott squeeze bunted the third run of the fifth inning.
Goodwin went 2-for-3 and Peyton Davis contributed a 3-for-4 night as part of Airline’s 10 hits.
Madison Livingston (2-for-4) was the only Gator with multiple hits, and he battled through an outing in which he allowed five runs on nine hits with six strikeouts in five innings.
Airline’s Backofen finished with two earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Reliever Andrew Lowe got the save by recording the final out.
Shreve attempted to rally in the seventh, scoring one run on an error before Livingston knocked in Bryant Bowen, who doubled.
The Gators (10-20, 4-6) have slid out of district contention and were at No. 41 in kenramsey.com’s power ratings before Friday’s loss.
Airline, at No. 31, will have to fight for a playoff spot as Todd pointed out that several district winners (who receive automatic bids) will likely finish outside of the top 32.