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Vance County scores first runs of the year

Mar. 29—HENDERSON — On Tuesday, the Vance County Vipers scored their first runs on the year when they lost to Carrboro in a home-double header. With only nine players active for the conference back-to-back, Vance County had no substitutions available and barely enough bodies for a full lineup.

One of the big missing pieces for Vance was three-star defensive end Taeshawn Alston, little brother of head coach Derrick Alston. The younger Alston elected not to participate in baseball for the rest of the season after their fifth straight loss to start the year.

Graduating early from the dual-enrollment program and with multiple D-1 offers including Virginia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina and South Carolina to name a few, the star football player will use the remainder of his time at Vance County to focus on his gridiron skills. Alston is expected to play one more season in the trenches for the Vipers come the fall football season.

A 'super-sub' for the Vipers, Alston was capable of playing multiple positions on the field. Now in his absence, the Vipers will look to juniors Jamaal Torrence and Jeffrey Walthall to carry the torch.

Speaking of Walthall, the starting right-hander for the Vipers was also absent in Tuesday's games after being tossed from the previous game against J.F. Webb.The already undermanned Vance County team was even more shorthanded, as the number of inactive players continues to rise.

However, despite the setbacks and shortcomings, the first-year coach is taking each game one at a time, and trying to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. Even with the long nights lining the field and tidying the dugout, Alston said he "wouldn't trade it for the world."

"I'll take whatever God has to bless me with right now," said Alston.

Ask and you shall receive: in their second game against Carrboro, after getting 10-0'd in their first match, the Vipers managed to put a pair of runs on the board.

Down 4-0 in the first inning of the second game, Vance worked its way into a bases-loaded situation where they could have tied the game with one swing of the bat. Carrboro's coach paused the game for a mound visit with his pitcher in a one-out jam. Unfortunately, a strikeout and a ground ball removed the RBI opportunity for the Vipers as they left three runners stranded.

Wild pitches and outfield blunders led to a 16-0 lead by the time the Vipers got out of the third inning. But with two outs, the Vipers found themselves up to bat with three runners on again. This time, they weren't going to let the opportunity pass without some runs batted in.

A dropped third strike led to the Vipers trotting in their first run of the year back to their home dugout. A run scored: the first step towards turning this program around.

None of the nine starters this season held a starting spot last year. The sole senior, Na'Sean Jones, was the team's manager. Now, with most of the players in their first season on the diamond, they only have a few games worth of baseball experience under their belt.

Trying to get used to life on the diamond is no joke — and as a second or third sport it can be difficult to grow to enjoy the nature of the game.

In the age of specialization in sports, the amount of multi-sport athletes in Vance County and the surrounding areas is unique. This year's team boasts plenty of athleticism as they continue to get their feet wet in unfamiliar territory.

Coach Alston has made it clear — although many players on his team are unaccustomed to losing this many games — that he would not be deterred by the losses — and says the boys are still getting used to playing with each other. Alston is building towards the future with high hopes and a clear vision for this program. With 18 years of coaching experience, Alston has a lot of baseball knowledge still to teach to this young core.

The Vipers are 0-7 on the year and last in the conference after back-to-back L's. But the trajectory of the team seems to be headed in the right direction, and the leadership of this team appears to be in good hands.

Vance County baseball will return after spring break on April 9 when the South Granville Vikings come to town. The first pitch will be thrown at 4 p.m., and local sports fans may want to consider catching the game and supporting their local team.

"It's a journey," said Alston. "If you come out, don't be sad — have patience," he said. "It's a learning-process this season."

"Myself, I can't get discouraged, we just have to rebuild."