By: Will Trubshaw
Whiting, Ind. – June 29, 2019 – Dave Letourneau has a new nickname for Justin Rios (North Central College/Lemont, Ill.): Centerline.
It's derived from Rios’s uncanny ability to succeed through the center of the playing field, from center field, to the pitcher’s mound, to the plate. On Saturday night, all three facets of his game were on full display in the Vikings 3-0 victory over the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.
Rios got the start for the Vikings and was dominant from the first pitch. In all he would rack up seven K’s over 8 shutout innings, while scattering six hits and three walks, a line good enough for his fourth win of the season.
“That was probably (one of) the better performances I’ve seen in the two years I’ve been here. He was just all over the zone, he had every pitch working,” Letourneau said. “This field was his today. He made it look easy.”
“It’s pretty easy calling pitches… when you have a guy on the mound who can just shove it,” said Vikings catcher (and older brother) Anthony Rios (Lewis University/Lemont, Ill). “We knew with his slider, and changeup and everything we could get guys out.
The older Rios also had a day for himself at the plate, going 3-for-4 with three singles.
After escaping a two-out jam in the second on a seed of an outfield assist from Kyel Alexander (Moraine Valley CC/Chicago, Ill.), Justin Rios and the Vikings would get the only offense they needed in the next half inning, When Dashon Moore (U of I Springfield/South Holland, Ill.) doubled in Logan Anderson (South Suburban CC/Chicago, Ill.) to put the Vikings up 1-0.
From there it turned to a pitcher’s duel with neither pitching giving much between the third and seventh innings. The Vikings did catch a little break, as the Oilmen’s starter Jordan Petty was pulled with two outs in the fifth after sixty pitches. Petty made his first appearance of the season and was on a pitch count limit as a result.
With Petty out of the game, the Vikings added two key insurance runs in the seventh on an Alexander groundout and Moore single to give the Vikings a 3-0 cushion.
Rios would go out for the 7th and 8th innings, and were it not for his own pitch count at 107, probably would have gone the distance for Southland
Instead he took over in center, while Trey Ricko (UT/Martin/Plainfield, Ill.) took over the rubber in the ninth and needed just 12 pitches to earn his third save of the season.
For the Vikings, it was their 12th win of the season, and perhaps the most satisfying. The Vikings were again spectacular in the field, remaining error free behind their pitchers. In fact, the Vikings have committed an MCL low 10 errors through 17 games. The bats were also an important factor in Letourneau’s eyes, as the Vikings aggressive approach helped set the table with the leadoff man reaching in each of the first four innings.
“We could’ve won this game 1-0, we were that good. Anytime you win a game 1-0 it says a lot about your team,” Letourneau said.
The Vikings will have the day off Sunday before returning to Whiting to face off with the Oilmen Monday at 7:10 p.m. The game is a rain make-up from June 15 and presents a chance for the Vikings to extend their win streak to four in a row. Will Trubshaw will join Brandon Vickrey and the NWI Oilmen Broadcast Network for the call from Oil City Stadium.
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