Rios Does It All In Home Opener

By: Jack Theil

Hammond, Ind. - July 6, 2020 - The Southland Vikings home opener looked to be spoiled by the MCL Minutemen early on. The Vikings couldn’t put a hit together until the bottom of the fifth inning off a Dashon Moore (Illinois-Springfield/South Holland, Ill. ) single that would drive in a run to cut into the Minutemen lead.

The bottom of the fifth was the start of a huge inning from the Vikings. After Moore’s single, Justin Rios (North Central, Lemont, Ill.) would come up with the bases loaded. Rios would single and drive in two runs to tie up the ball game. Jake Schroeder (Northern Illinois/Flossmoor, Ill.) would single and drive in the go ahead run to make the game 4-3 Vikings.

“Just to stay with it, it’s a nine innging game and as long as we keep close, we’ll be able to get in their pen,” Vikings manager Dave Letourneau said. “We needed to keep battling at the plate, get his pitch count up, make them go to the pen, I liked our chances.”

Mike Tobin (Concordia/Palos Hills, Ill.) would step on the mound and control the game. After a 100 percent save percentage in the 2019 season, Tobin would be called to keep the Minutemen from scoring to mount a Viking comeback.

“I just came in to give it to the next guy and I tried to keep them where they were and we did,” Tobin said. I know I have stuff to get it done and I’m glad the coach has confidence in me and just knows I can go out there and pitch without any fear.”

Tobin would come back out after the Vikings have taken the lead, shutting the Minutemen down. Tobin would finish the day with two innings, zero earned runs, and one strikeout. He would be rewarded the win for the game. 

The Vikings would seek insurance runs throughout the game as the bottom of the eighth inning would be the most crucial run in the game. Nick McAlister (Southern Illinois/Homewood, Ill.) would steal second and third base to put himself in prime scoring position. Off the fly ball from Anthony Rios (Lewis/Lemont, Ill.), McAlister would tag from third and extend the lead to four. 

“He’s a gamechanger on the bases, in 74 attempts he’s only been caught stealing once in his college career,” Dave Letourneau said. “We like to think when he’s on first in a couple of seconds he’s going to be standing on third base, speed helped us and it turned out to be the game winner.”

The Minutemen would make the ninth inning interesting as Rios was dealing with bases loaded no outs in a 7-4 ballgame. A double play by Logan Anderson (South Suburban/Frankfort, Ill.) at third would halt the tying run at second base. Rios would strikeout the final batter and propelled the Vikings for three straight victories.

“Right when we walked in the run, I looked at him and told him it’s his game and he shook his head that he’s got it,” Dave Letourneau said. “And when you tell him that he’s got the game you know that you can put all the confidence in him. With him out there I knew we would be fine at the end of the game.”

The Vikings will host the (3-0) DuPage County Hounds Tuesday, July 7 at Dowling Park in Hammond, Ind.. First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 P.M..  Jack Theil alongside Thomas Gorski will have the call for the game. You can find the game on the Southland Vikings Facebook page via Facebook Live.

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