Chicago, Ill. – July 27, 2019 – When the wind blows in at the Vikings new home at St. Rita, it becomes very much a pitcher friendly park.
With the wind blowing every which way it came as no surprise that Saturday’s doubleheader with the DuPage County Hounds featured lights out pitching, as the two teams earned a split of the games.
The Hounds scored late to take Game 1 by a score of 3-1, but the Vikings responded with a strong 10-3 win in Game 2, picking up their third win in four games in the process.
Zach Litke (Concordia Chicago/Oak Lawn, Ill.) made the initial start for the Vikings and once again had his top-notch stuff, working through his first six innings with minimal stress. However, his offense was stymied by the Hounds starter Malik Binns, and the game would enter the seventh and final inning in a 0-0 tie.
In the seventh Litke would issue a leadoff walk and a single, then on a bunt attempt he came off the mound to field the ball but threw it away from first basemen Billy Curtis, allowing for the game’s first run. Two more would score in the inning as the Hounds went in to the bottom half of the inning with a 3-0 lead.
The Vikings were able to get one run back on an A.J Wright (Northwood U/Blue Island, Ill.) fielder’s choice, but they would get no more as the Hounds Zac Bianucci picked up the save.
For Litke and the Vikings, it was a frustrating end result as they struggled to produce any run support again for their right-hander.
“Twice or three times now where he hasn’t had any run support whatsoever,” manager Dave Letourneau said. “He’s one hell of a competitor man, he’s one of the guys on this team that competes every pitch. He’s just had the bad luck this year.”
\The offense behind Litke struggled as they tried to lift the ball in the air and pull it in the matinee. They changed course in Game 2, getting back to line drives and opposite field hits, and it paid dividends as the Vikings put up 10 runs. “We went back to yesterday’s approach. We attacked the fastball and we went both ways,” Letourneau said. “We got back to who we were, and that’s the message going forward.”
Victor Aguilar (NCC/Blue Island, Ill.) was somehow even better than Litke, as he too went all seven innings while allowing three runs (one earned) and surrendering just six hits in the process.
“He came in and he was a big stopper today, just did an outstanding job. He kept us in the game and threw strikes,” Letourneau said.
He settled in nicely after a shaky first, and a fielder’s choice RBI for Justin Rios and sacrifice RBI for Steve Insley put the Vikings in front 2-1 after two.
The Hounds tied it again in the third, but an inning later Insley doubled on a line drive to right that scored two runs to put the Vikings up 4-2.
In the fifth Anthony Rios (Lewis University/Lemont, Ill.) singled in a run to make it 5-2, but then a wild pitch the bases full and Joe Curci (RPI/Chicago, Ill.) at the plate score Justin Rios (NCC/Lemont, Ill.) and Jake Schroeder (NIU/Flossmoor, Ill.). Curci then grounded out allowing the other Rios to score and make it 8-2 Southland.
The Hounds got one run back, but the Vikings would score twice more in the sixth to put the game on ice at 10-3.
With the split, the Vikings held serve in the standings, still a half game up on Bloomington and two games up on the Hounds.
Tomorrow’s matchup with the Oilmen presents the Vikings with an opportunity to finish their insane stretch of eight games in six days with a winning record. With a couple off days following the twin games tomorrow, Letourneau’s message to his squad is to lay it all out on the line and then enjoy the upcoming break.
“Come out, play your best baseball for 5 or 6 hours and see what happens, then you’ve got Monday and Tuesday off to rest,” Letourneau said. “I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Jake Ruppert (St Xavier U/Tinley, Park, Ill) gets the ball for Game 1 against the Oilmen with a first pitch time scheduled for 1 p.m., while Mike Tobin (Concordia Chicago/Hickory Hills, Ill.) will make his first start of the season in the night cap. Will Trubshaw will be joined by the NWI Oilmen Broadcast Network for the broadcast on Facebook Live.