ATHENS — It's safe to say that Athens didn't forget about Vinton County ending its 31-game TVC winning streak.
The two teams met for a rubber match in a Division II sectional semifinal, and Athens' Nate Trainer made quick work of the Vikings, pitching a no-hitter in the Bulldogs' 10-0 victory in five innings on Tuesday.
"I know the scoreboard and stat book says otherwise, but I don't think we played awful despite being no-hit," Vinton County coach Andy Barrell said. "Athens hit the ball hard and they hit to the spots we weren't in. We were a little thrown off since we were expecting a different pitcher, but Trainer threw an unbelievable game and credit to him for shutting our bats down. That's how baseball goes sometimes."
Trainer and Vikings starter Ash Abele went toe-to-toe through the first two innings, but the Bulldogs began their barrage in the third.
Trainer ripped an RBI double to center field, followed by a 2-run single from Eli Kennedy for a 3-0 lead.
The Bulldogs added four more runs off another Trainor RBI single and a pair of errors, later capped with an RBI single from Kennedy for a 7-0 lead.
They finished things off with three final runs in the fifth with Kennedy ending the night with another RBI single.
"Athens was ready for whatever we threw at them," Barrell said. "They'd been waiting for us for a couple days and unloaded. We knew the first couple innings were important and they turned a double play which sort of deflated us. We couldn't get baserunners on and that's how it goes sometimes."
After a string of below average seasons, Vinton County was able to string together one of the more successful seasons in recent history.
The Vikings underwent an attitude change, mixed a couple things up and put together a 13-12 season.
But above all else, there's one thing this team truly gained that goes above anything a scoreboard says: respect.
"It's impossible to meet a group of kids that you want to hang around more than these guys," Barrell said. "From the kid who batted four times to Ash Abele and Jacob Wells, there's nothing but great, high character kids on this team. I'm truly going to miss spending time with them, but luckily we have most of them coming back next year."
While most of the team does return, three seniors who helped spark the turnaround season in some way, shape or form are gone in Lincoln Hayes, D.J. Norris and Bradlee Griffin.
"D.J. was the first person I met when we had open field and he came up to shake my hand, so it's a little bittersweet saying bye to him," Barrell said. "He did anything and everything we asked of him. He's that important to the program as is his family has been.
"You won't find a kid more competitive than Lincoln. It's to the point that I want to pull my hair out, but he's the type of guy who will run through a wall for you. He's been the team leader from stretching to fielding, he runs all of it. Bradlee hadn't played since sixth grade and while he didn't play much, he understood why and you couldn't ask for a better attitude. They are three seniors I'll truly miss."