By: Jack Theil
Hammond, Ind. - July 9, 2020 - If you’re a fan of comebacks, the Southland Vikings are your team. The past three games, the Vikings saw themselves down in every game. The Vikings would use big innings and clutch pitching to comeback and win in each of those games. Thursday was nothing different. After being down 6-1 and 9-6 against the Crestwood Panthers, the Vikings chipped and chipped at the lead and ultimately would win the game 10-9.
The Vikings saw themselves down 6-1 after the top of the second making it another comeback game. The Vikings kept chipping at the deficit, scoring runs in the first and second inning. Scoring two runs in the bottom of the third. The Vikings finally came all the way back in the bottom of the fourth after a two run single from Justin Rios (North Central/Lemont, Ill.) tying the game.
“Two other bats before, I felt myself yanking a little bit,” Rios said. ‘I knew they were going to go away from me so I just kept my front shoulder in and drove the ball.”
Entering the top of the sixth Vikings saw themselves down one and trying to keep the game maintained. Panthers put up two more runs to make the game 9-6 trying to end the Vikings undefeated season.
After Luke Napleton (Quincy/La Grange, Ill.) doubled to start the inning, it would set the Vikings up for run opportunities. It would take a Justin Rios (North Central/Lemont, Ill.) groundout to chip into the deficit to make the game 9-7.
Joseph Tor (South Suburban/Lockport, Ill.) called from the pen to shut down the Panthers in two innings of work, setting the Vikings up for prime position to comeback.
Dave Letourneau looked for a spark with one runner on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Dane Thomas (Wright State/Chicago, Ill.) and Dylan Robertson (Iowa Western/Downers Grove, Ill.) provided that spark. Thomas singled to center, advancing Jake Schroeder (Northern Illinois/Flossmoor, Ill.) home to cut the deficit to one, 9-8 Panthers. Robertson stepped to the plate and changed the complexion of the game after doubling to right and scoring Thomas to tie the game 9-9.
“The whole game I’m sitting at the end of the bench talking to Dane and Dylan and the whole time we talked baseball,” Vikings manager Dave Letourneau said. “We talked about pitch selection, mindset of a hitter, so the whole time we were talking about the game. I knew if they got in the game they were ready to go, but they were focused from the first inning and that’s amazing for young players to have that focus when sitting on the bench. I knew right when i was going to get them in there, they’re gamers and they were the difference and when you can have them hit eight, nine. That make’s our lineup even more dangerous.”
To keep the game in check and tied, Dave Letourneau called to the bullpen again and called for Ryan Manikowski (Creighton/New Lenox, Ill.) who had started in his previous appearance for the Vikings. Manikowski calm and composed on the mound, went right through the Panther batting order, setting up a walk off opportunity for the Vikings.
“I had the same mentality as usual, it was a blank game, it’s a tied game,” Manikowski said. “Just had to go out there and throw strikes, and get the job done. I just have the ability to trust myself and if I work the way I know I can, there’s nothing that can stop me or get in the way.”
The Vikings entered the bottom of the ninth trying to come true to their nickname “comeback kids”. Thomas would reach by error, and Robertson would walk to put two runners on. Dashon Moore (Illinois-Springfield/South Holland, Ill.) who was three for five and a homerun away from the cycle, played hero ball for the Vikings. Moore drove in Thomas off a line drive to left field helping the Vikings win their sixth consecutive game.
“Just putting a swing on the ball, there’s a good backdrop here to see the ball,” Moore said. “All year I’ve been making great contact, it just hasn’t been dropping and I’ve been sticking with the same approach and attacking the ball.”
The Vikings saw themselves win their fourth straight come from behind victory. Their sixth consecutive victory of the season. A franchise record start, 6-0. Sitting alone at first in the MCL standings.
“I bounced back and looked at Tobin and came into the game 6-1 with the bases loaded and one out,” Vikings manager Dave Letourneau said. “He gets both outs and we leave with giving nothing and that was the turning point to me. The way we’re playing and the hot streak we’re on, you’re going to have to step on us and put us away. They had chances and couldn't capitalize and we kept chipping and chipping, I told everyone we’re going to come back and score nine runs and it’s just if we can stop them. The kids just didn’t give up.”
The Vikings next game will be Friday, July 10 on the road as they travel to Howie Minas Field, located in Midlothian, Ill. to face the Joliet Generals (0-5). First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 P.M. and you can watch the game on the Joliet Generals Facebook page via Facebook Live. Alex Coil alongside Jack Theil will have the call for the game.
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