Hammond, Ind. - July 21, 2021 - The Southland Vikings (12-17) eyeing the fourth spot in the MCL standings hosted the fourth place Crestwood Panthers (14-14) on Wednesday. The two MCL rivals went back and forth as the Vikings came back from three early and eventually won 6-4.
The Panthers started the first two innings with three runs, two in the first and one in the second taking an early 3-0 lead after two innings.
The Vikings responded with one run in the third inning. Lucas Spence (Uncommitted / Beecher, Ill.) led the inning off with a walk. Darius Little (Morton / Chicago, Ill.) popped a single over the first baseman's head, advancing Spence to third. MCL All-Star Luke Sefcik (Central Michigan / Palos Heights, Ill.) lined an RBI single up the middle scoring Spence, 3-1.
The offense continued for the Vikings in the fifth inning. Connective walks from Alex Gasbarro (Purdue Northwest / New Lenox, Ill.) and Little with one out. Sefick floated an RBI single to right field, scoring Gasbarro, 3-2. The next batter Patrick Doran (North Carolina Central / Evergreen Park, Ill.) squeaked an RBI single up the middle scoring Little, tying the game at 3-3. A fielder's choice by Logan Anderson (South Suburban / Frankfort, Ill.) scored Sefcik taking a 4-3 lead.
“I got a couple lucky hits today but my two strike approach went very well, just simplifying and finding my swing,” Sefcik said. “Today it was huge to have those kinds of hits because I’ve been unlucky the past couple of games so it’s nice to have one like this. We just try to have fun out there so when we get down we’re not panicking or anything, it’s good for today, it’s good for tomorrow, and it’s good for the next game.”
Crestwood scored an inside the park home run tying the game at 4-4 in the sixth inning.
Southland answered in the bottom of the sixth. Lead-off walk from Ethan Imlach (Purdue Northwest / Mokena, Ill.). Gasbarro lined an RBI triple over the right fielder's head scoring Imlach from first, regaining the lead at 5-4.
Much needed insurance run scored for the Vikings in the bottom of the seventh. Lead-off single from Sefcik and an Anderson walk put runners on first and second with one out. Sefcik advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch, 6-4.
Tommy Engraffia (St. Xavier / Evergreen Park, Ill.) came in for relief in the fourth inning and was the unsung hero for the Vikings. Engraffia kept the Panthers hitters quiet at the plate, giving the Vikings offense a chance to take the lead. Engraffia finished his day at five innings, allowing two hits, one run, and three strikeouts.
“Just having fun out there, throwing strikes and trusting my fielders behind me,” Engraffia said. “It gets me more pumped up when the offense is able to take the lead, I like pitching to win and not to lose, so I’m going to go out there and win.”
The Panthers went one, two, three in the ninth inning, having the Vikings secure a 6-4 win and moving up 2.5 GB on the Panthers for fourth place.
“Great job by the team to fight back and not go down without a win,” Vikings Assistant Manager Ryan Gyrion said. “Engraffia was huge out of the bullpen and pitched well to where he gave our offense a chance to take the lead. The offense did their part when they needed to, answering with runs and just kept going when the Panthers wouldn’t go away at the end.”
The Vikings next game is Thursday, July 22 as they face the Northwest Indiana Oilmen. The game is at Dowling Park located in Hammond, Ind. and the first pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. The broadcast will be available on the Northwest Indiana Oilmen Facebook Page via Facebook Live. Brandon Vickrey, Leo Staudcaher, and Jack Theil will have the call for the game.