By: Will Trubshaw
Lemont, Ill. – July 8, 2019 – There’s no denying that when a team falls into a slump like Southland has, it feels like everything that can go wrong, does. Especially on offense, where the Vikings had struggled to get the ‘big hit’ with runners in scoring position during their three-game losing streak.
That changed Monday, when Justin Rios (NCC/ Lemont, Ill.) doubled with the bases full and two outs in the ninth to spark the Vikings to a comeback 4-3 victory over the DuPage County Hounds.
The win helped the Vikings complete their five-game-in-four-day stretch on a high note, finishing 2-3 on the road trip.
“It’s really nice to win it the way we did. For a team that’s struggling, to come back down 3-1 with two outs to tie the game and then take the lead, I think now that could really get us back on track,” said Vikings skipper Dave Letourneau.
The Hounds also entered the game on a three-game losing streak, and in the early going neither team looked as though they wanted to break their respective losing streaks with both pitchers dominating in the early going yet again. Between Vikings starter Jake Ruppert (St. Xavier/Tinley Park, Ill.) and Hounds starter Austin Andrishok there were 10 strikeouts through the first four innings.
The Hounds grabbed the lead in the fourth inning thanks to a Ruppert error. Ruppert airmailed a throw over the head of first baseman Billy Curtis (Moraine Valley/Lockport, Ill.) that turned a bunt single into a man at third. The Hounds then singled to bring in the run.
The Vikings tied the game in the sixth when Curtis lined a single in to center to score Rios and keep the bases loaded. However, the Vikings could not push anymore runs across.
“It’s frustrating because we really don’t have a good plan at the plate right now,” Letourneau said. “We’ve got to do a better job of putting the ball in play.”
Things got a little more frustrating, as in the seventh Ruppert was called for a balk that set up the lead run for the Hounds, and in the eighth a dropped pop up on the infield by Dashon Moore (U of I Springfield, South Holland, Ill.) helped score an insurance run for the Hounds, as they led 3-1 heading to the ninth.
It was a tough play as Moore, who played an absolutely stellar defensive game otherwise, had to run up on the pitcher’s mound to try and make the grab. Little did he know that in the ninth he would be able to atone for the mistake.
Curtis led off the ninth with a double and was followed by a Michael Marseille (Lake Land College/Chicago Heights, Ill.) single. Steve Insley (Moraine Valley/Chicago, Ill.) popped out, and Marseille was put out on a fielder’s choice that moved Curtis over to third and stationed Kyel Alexander (Moraine Valley/Chicago, Ill.) at first.
With two outs, Moore stepped up to the plate, and after falling to the final strike, drew a walk to load the bases for Rios.
Rios wasted no time, shooting the first pitch he saw into left center to score Curtis and Alexander and knot the game at 3-3.
“I was just trying to see a ball out over the plate and attack my pitch. I think the past couple of games I’ve been kind of getting out of my approach,” Rios said. “I got my pitch and I was just trying to hit it hard, and I did.”
Then, in a stroke of luck the relay throw kicked past the Hounds third baseman as Moore was trying to advance to third. Moore read the play perfectly, springing up out of his slide to sprint home for the lead run.
In front for the first time, the Vikings sent Mike Tobin (Concordia University/Hickory Hills, Ill.) out to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth. After allowing a two out walk and single Tobin got the strikeout to end the game in dramatic fashion.
“I’m happy. I’m satisfied with the win any way you can take them,” said Letourneau. “We’ve been waiting for that big hit. We didn’t get the big hit yesterday and I think maybe that big hit will get us back on track.”
The Vikings win put them at 16-8 for the year, and with an off-day Tuesday carries a little more significance than most, as it saved the Vikings from a season high four-game losing streak.
Now with the off day the Vikings can let the success stew for a bit and use their forward momentum as a confidence boost going into their game Wednesday with Crestwood.
The game is a home game on the schedule, but its site is yet to be determined. Regardless, first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. Will Trubshaw will be joined by Jon Zaghloul for the call of the game on the Southland Vikings Broadcast Network.
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