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Best: Voyager’s baseball team is all ‘grown up’

April 7, 2014 

The children are all grown up.

After playing without any seniors for the past three seasons, Voyager Academy baseball is now an “old” team laden with eight seniors.

The Vikings are one of the most successful 1-A high school baseball programs under legendary coach pete Shankle.

After leading an all-freshmen junior varsity team to a 17-4 record in his first season, Shankle guided the Vikings to a 20-8 mark in their first year of varsity play in the N.C. High School Athletic Association. Voyager lost in the state finals to South Stanly.

Last season’s 20-7 finish would have been bragging rights for most teams, but expectations were high for a state championship.

The Vikings are 5-2 after their 14-2 win over Franklin Academy Friday night at Duke’s Jack Coombs Field, but Shankle said the team is still having growing pains.

“We are winning a lot but it’s not pretty,” said Shankle, who also coached at Southern and Northern. “We should be farther along than we are, but we’re still doing things like swinging at bad pitches. So we’re still getting there.”

Pitching injuries also haven’t helped. Senior infielder/pitcher Chad Sykes is back from injury but has thrown in just one inning. Sykes wasn’t needed on the mound Friday, as sophomore Bryson Willis went the distance.

Voyager’s three runs in the first inning were all it would need. The Patriots rallied with a score in the second and third innings to cut it to 3-2, but the Vikings got their offense in groove for their second straight win.

Voyager is playing a vagabond home schedule while it awaits a city permit to begin construction on a baseball stadium on Hoover Road. Southern and Duke have offered up their fields for home games, as well as the Historic Durham Athletic Park.

For Willis, a new venue can’t come soon enough. Although thrilled with the win, he couldn’t leave fast enough Friday night. Why?

“I’m a UNC fan.”

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