Airline’s strong pitching and defense will be the key to its quest to repeat as district champs.
The Vikings showed off their strengths at home to knock off Captain Shreve 5-1 in the District 1-5A opener for both teams. Righthander Cameron Parikh dominated the Gators, allowing just four hits with five strikeouts and no walks in a complete game to improve to 4-1.
“I was just trying to work down, make sure that I was making all my pitches,” Parikh said. “Just mostly trying to work down in the zone because Shreve’s a good hitting team.”
He executed that strategy to perfection in the first two innings with five ground balls to retire Captain Shreve (9-9,0-1 District 1-5A) in order on the way to snapping its streak of 12 straight games with at least two runs. Airline’s (13-3, 1-0) infielders looked sharp all night while recording 11 groundball outs, and Parikh mixed up his pitches well with a fastball that touched 87 miles per hour and a knee-buckling curveball.
Only Kyle Koch made solid contact with a double, a triple and the Gators’ only run, but that wasn’t nearly enough to make up for Shreve’s defensive miscues. Six infield errors ruined a solid outing from Tanner Johnson, who fell to 1-3 despite giving up just one earned run.
Airline’s offense capitalized thanks in part to a three-hit night from Jarrett Bamburg, although coach Toby Todd said his team left too many runners on base. A few more runs would always be nice, but they’re not needed often with how well the Vikings have pitched this season.
“Right now, pitching is one thing that has been good for us,” Todd said. “As long as we can play a little defense and hit it a couple times, we feel like we have a chance.”
They’ve allowed just 50 runs in 16 games, compared to at least 74 runs given up by every other team in the district. A new two-game series format might favor the Vikings even more, since it would enable them to throw Parikh and Louisiana-Monroe signee Kyle Backhofen in all 12 games.
The reigning District 1-5A Pitcher of the Year will throw Thursday night at Captain Shreve, where he’ll look to improve to 4-1. He’ll provide a nice complement to Parikh as a hardthrowing lefthander, and Todd said Peyton Davis has been solid in relief.
But Todd also suggested Cameron Taylor could get an opportunity to start in district play thanks to an impressive 3-0 record, making him the only unbeaten pitcher in the rotation. Sharp believes a two-man rotation could eventually cause some fatigue in a district where every team is capable of beating one another on any given night, so Airline’s depth, which also includes Hayden Waxley, could be valuable.
Parikh said all three primary starters maintain a strong relationship and give each other advice on how to throw certain pitches or attack different batters. No matter which one of them is on the mound, it’s clear the Vikings should remain the favorites for another district crown.