Vikings win a Thriller to End First Half on a High Note, Hang on to First Place

By: Will Trubshaw

Whiting, Ind. – July 12, 2019 – With a big crowd and pleasant breeze at Oil City Stadium, the Vikings game against the Northwest Indiana Oilmen certainly had the look and feel of a postseason showdown.   Not surprisingly, it played out a like a playoff game as the Vikings grabbed a late lead and hung on for a 4-2 victory over the Oilmen.  

The win was an important one as it provided some relief from the stretch of five losses in six days for a Vikings squad desperate for some good news. More importantly, a loss would have meant a tie for first with the Oilmen at the All-Star Break.  

“Today was literally like pulling teeth. It was a struggle throughout,” said manager Dave Letourneau. “Did we play our best? No, but at this point a win’s a win and I’ll take it going in to the All-Star break.”  

Justin Rios (NCC/Lemont, Ill.) took the mound for the Vikings, and while he didn’t have his best outing, grit plus fantastic defense behind him helped keep the Vikings in the game just long enough to strike.  

Rios loaded the bases in the first with just one out, but the Oilmen only pushed one run across on a sacrifice fly.  

In the second the bases would be loaded again, but Rios escaped the jam again, netting back to back strikeouts in the process.  

“He’s a gamer man. Didn’t have his best stuff through the three innings, but I thought he was really good from the fourth to the seventh,” Letourneau said.  

The Vikings failed on a couple scoring chances of their own and heading into the fifth inning the score remained at 1-0. Then with one out in the inning Billy Curtis (Moraine Valley/Lockport, Ill.) singled and advanced to second on an error. He moved up to third on a wild pitch, and on the next pitch Kyel Alexander (Moraine Valley/Chicago, Ill.) singled Curtis home to tie the game 1-1.  

Rios followed up a batter later by singling and scoring Alexander to help his own cause and put the Vikings in front 2-1.  

The Oilmen would respond with a run of their own in the next half inning, and the game was tied again at two.  

The game remained tied, despite the Vikings putting men in scoring position in both the sixth and seventh innings, and as the eighth inning began it felt like neither team wanted to take control.  

Then with two on and one out in the eighth, Joe Egan (Loras College/Chicago, Ill.) grounded into what looked to be an easy double play, but the relay throw to first was sent way wide, allowing for Anthony Rios (Lewis University/Lemont, Ill.) to score the lead run for the Vikings.  

The error was one of three for the Oilmen and was one of the few differentiating factors between a win and loss for the Vikings.  

“They made a couple errors that cost them a couple runs. We played hard but we also got fortunate with some of the miscues they made,” Letourneau said.  

In the bottom half of the inning Mike Tobin (Concordia Chicago/Hickory Hills, Ill.) came in to work on a six out save and danced around a walk and single to keep the advantage at 3-2 for Southland. Logan Anderson doubled in a run to put the Vikings up 4-2 and set up a dramatic bottom of the ninth.  

After two quick outs, back to back singles set up a potential walk-off scenario for the Oilmen. In the batter’s box was the Oilmen’s lead run producer Jackson Dvorak, but a quick battle led to Tobin forcing a groundout to secure the Vikings’ 17th win of the season.  

Despite succeeding a couple times with RISP, the offense left a little to be desired by leaving 11 men on base. But the overall returns from the Vikings final game of the first half produced encouraging signs, as the pitching and defense returned to form for the first time in seven games.  

“You can control playing hard, and you can control defense. You can control your focus and preparation. If we play defense and we throw strikes, we’re gonna win baseball games,” Letourneau said.  

Eight Vikings plus Letourneau will return to Whiting Saturday for the MCL All-Star Game, beginning at 7:10 p.m. The Vikings will then return to play Tuesday at the Corn Crib in Bloomington for a doubleheader with the Bobcats.  

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