By: Brandon Vickrey
Through the first half of the Midwest Collegiate League season, few opposing pitchers have found success against the Southland Vikings.
Fittingly, it was the Southland hitters that played a critical role in lifting the South to a 10-3 victory over the North in Wednesday’s Midwest Collegiate League All-Star Game at Oil City Stadium.
Ironically, the first home run hit by a player on the home team at Oil City Stadium this season came off the bat of Vikings slugger Jeff Boehm. The University of Illinois-Chicago Flame infielder cracked a two-run homer in the first inning to help the South jump out to a 3-0 lead. Boehm’s blow over the left-field wall allowed him to garner the 2014 MCL All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award.
“I was thinking with a guy on first, he was going to try to get me to roll over on something off speed,” Boehm said. “I stayed through it, recognized it and drove it over the wall. It was really exciting, especially with it being my first AB.”
Boehm’s family looked on as he started his night by circling the bases in the first inning and finished the game by receiving MVP honors.
Although the game did not count in the league standings, a competitive vibe surrounded the South squad after the victory.
“It feels good to come out here and play a game,” Boehm said. “We’re all ballplayers, so it’s fun to play a game. We’re trying to win. Every guy comes out here trying to win; we’re not trying to lollygag and play mediocre. We’re coming out here to play ball and give it our best.”
Southland’s Bobby Sheppard clubbed a first-inning double and scored the first run of the game on a single by Lexington’s Eric Phillis. Sheppard re-entered the game in the seventh and rapped another double.
South manager Chris Cunningham, who is the skipper for the Vikings, was pleased with the effort he saw from the Southland players.
“They played hard,” Cunningham said. “That’s all I really ask from them, to play hard and respect the game. You play every inning like it’s your last.”
Northwest Indiana left-hander Jimmy McNamara (Central Michigan) made the start and pitched the first inning, walking one before working out of the frame unscathed.
Southland’s Brandon White (Hill College) was credited with the win, retiring the side in order in the second inning. Joliet’s Quinn Ahern took the loss, allowing three runs in his only inning.
Bobby Smith of the Chicago Zephyrs led the way for the North team, posting three hits. For the South, the No. 8 slot in the batting order was the team’s most productive as catchers Jake Capko (Lexington) and Alex Lugo (Southland) combined to reach base four times.
A large crowd was on hand to witness the game and help support the family of Bryce Nowakowski, the son of Calumet College of St. Joseph head baseball coach Brian Nowakowski. Bryce was born with a rare heart defect and is in need of a heart transplant. Fifty percent of all ticket revenue was donated to the Nowakowski family.
“It was a very good crowd,” Cunningham said. “Everyone was into it, in typical Whiting fashion. They do a great job here.”
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