Vikings rebound smartly from initial loss
All good things must come to an end.
St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus certainly doesn’t dispute that sentiment. What he had been wondering, though, was how his own players would react when finally faced with such a circumstance.
Lotus got his answer Saturday in Indianapolis, where the Vikings competed in a two-day baseball event. Prior to traveling to Indiana, St. Laurence had won seven games in a row, including five in Arizona, and most of those victories had been realized with relatively little difficulty.
The Vikings also picked up a win on Friday at the tournament, that one a 14-2 rout of Carroll, Ind. So when St. Laurence took the field on Saturday versus Westfield, there was no reason for its athletes to think in negative terms.
Lotus didn’t, either, but he also wasn’t about to immediately mark another entry on the “W” side of the ledger.
“When everything’s going good, it’s everybody’s nature to grow a little complacent,” he said.
Whether that happened to the Vikings is up for debate. Indisputable, however, is the fact that St. Laurence suffered a humbling 7-1 defeat. Then to compound the situation, it slipped behind Lake Central 5-1 in Saturday’s second contest.
“That’s one of the things you think about as a coach — when you have that adversity, are you worrying too much about the game before or the previous at-bat?” Lotus said. “As soon as we lost that first game, were we going to dwell on it too much? I think there was a little bit of that at the beginning [against Lake Central].”
Maybe at the beginning, but not by the end. The Vikings responded to the Indians’ three-run outburst in the top of the fifth with one of their own, which shaved their deficit to a single run. Brad Wood’s two-RBI double and Mike Kornacker’s sacrifice fly were responsible for inching St. Laurence closer.
In their next plate appearance, the Vikings finished their comeback with a flourish. Rob Gutierrez’s pinch-hit single and Lake Central’s error on a sacrifice bunt got things rolling for St. Laurence, and Mike Finger (double), Frank Greco and Kornacker all supplied RBI hits as the locals rallied to post a 9-5 triumph.
“Our guys did a real good job of forgetting about that [earlier game],” Lotus said. “To see us rebound was great. It was huge because it’s going to have to happen again sometime, so this is really good information for us to have.”
Alex Hitney also made a recovery of sorts. Although he had logged a pitching win over Lincoln-Way Central the Monday before, he did so while giving up three walks, hitting three batters and looking far less imposing than he had in his previous starting assignment in Arizona. That changed on Saturday, even though Hitney needed a bit of an offensive bailout.
Kornacker also registered an RBI in the first stanza when he singled home Nate Tholl, who had doubled.
Westfield (Ind.) 7
St. Laurence 1
Kornacker didn’t have much trouble with Westfield until his defense had difficulty getting to the baseball. A misplayed fly ball and dropped popup presented Westfield with a couple fourth-inning gifts, which were quickly converted into runs as a triple and single followed.
Five more hits led to four Westfield runs in the fifth and basically decided the issue.
“It definitely changed the game in a lot of ways,” Lotus said, referring to the Vikings’ shaky fielding, “and we really didn’t recover. I was frustrated more with our lack of focus in that inning. Those were [the kind of] plays we have been making.
“Bad things are going to [occasionally] happen, but we’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding. Especially in high school baseball, three runs is nothing, so we just had to try to get out of that. But we didn’t play defense, and that’s always going to hurt you against a good team.”
So, too, is a lack of batting punch. St. Laurence (9-1) suffered through such an affliction, as it managed just four hits in the contest. TJ Marik’s single accounted for the Vikes’ lone RBI in the fourth frame.
“For as good as we’ve been, I didn’t think we had great at-bats,” Lotus said. “It was frustrating.”
St. Laurence 14
Far less so was the Vikings’ display versus Carroll on Friday, which featured them taking command by putting up back-to-back six-spots in the third and fourth innings.
St. Laurence faced a pitcher bound for Wichita State University in the fall, but who was backed by a sometimes-sketchy defense. An error prolonged the Vikings’ third at-bat, and once they plated “a few runs, it flowed pretty well.”
And that production flowed from several sources. Nine different St. Laurence players knocked in at least one run, and Kornacker (two doubles), Roger Wilson (double) and Greco (double) all hit safely more than once.
“I think this is our deepest lineup offensively,” Lotus said. “That’s been the biggest thing this year — we get contributions from a lot of guys throughout the lineup.
“I think we can do a lot of different things and can score in so many different ways. We have guys who can come off the bench and be valuable, and I’m really confident with a lot of different guys.”
Making this year’s attack particularly dangerous is that it is capable of combining stout hitting with above-average baserunning to create a nightmare for foes.
“In my first few years, we were tremendous at running the bases and doing the little things,” Lotus said. “Then we had the big hitters and didn’t do as much of that, but I think we have both [areas covered]. It’s been great.”
Wood was the pitcher of record for St. Laurence as he fanned seven and scattered four hits over five innings. The Vikings’ win gave them at least one this spring against opponents hailing from four different states.
“I don’t think that’s ever happened [for us] before,” Lotus said.
St. Laurence 12
Lincoln-Way Central 7
The Vikings’ first Illinois conquest occurred on Monday, as they downed the Knights behind another potent offensive showing. Kevin White and Kornacker combined for five hits and two RBI, Finger swatted a two-run homer, and both Tholl and Mike Miller also knocked in a pair of runs.
Five of St. Laurence’s 13 hits went for extra bases.
St. Laurence 17
Oak Park-River Forest 2
The Huskies are traditionally a successful program, but they were no match for the Vikings last Tuesday. St. Laurence erupted for five first-inning runs and then tacked on eight more in its next plate appearance to bury Oak Park-River Forest.
Wilson (double, triple, three RBI) and White (double, two RBI) both went 3-for-4 to pace the Vikings’ 15-hit attack. Kornacker (four RBI), Tholl (double, two RBI) and Anthony Chimera (two-run double) all added two hits, and Wood (triple), Marik (double) and Miller were other RBI men.
“Tuesday was tremendous in terms of that,” Lotus said, referring to his club’s overall balance. “[The Huskies] made a couple mistakes early on and we kind of capitalized on them. Once we got a couple runs, it seemed like it was contagious and everybody was having good at-bats.”
Greco notched the victory on the mound after going the first four innings and allowing just five hits.
Lincoln-Way Central 021 100 3 — 7
St. Laurence 233 004 x — 12
St. Laurence 2B: Kornacker, Marik, White, Wilson. HR: Finger. RBI: Finger 2, Miller 2, Tholl 2, Kornacker, Marik, White, Wilson, Wood. WP: Hitney (2-0).
Oak Park-River Forest 011 00 — 2
St. Laurence 583 1x — 17
St. Laurence 2B: Chimera, Marik, Tholl, Wilson, White. 3B: Burnette, Wilson, Wood. RBI: Kornacker 4, Wilson 3, Chimera 2, Tholl 2, White 2, Marik, Miller, Wood. WP: Greco (2-0).
St. Laurence 006 62 — 17
Carroll 000 20 — 2
St. Laurence 2B: Kornacker 2, Greco, Wilson. 3B: Gutierrez. RBI: Greco 3, Kornacker 2, Riordan 2, Wilson 2, Gutierrez, Marik, Miller, White, Wood. WP: Wood (2-0).
St. Laurence 000 100 0 — 1
Westfield 000 340 x — 7
St. Laurence RBI: Marik. LP: Kornacker (1-1).
Lake Central 101 030 0 — 5
St. Laurence 100 035 x — 9
St. Laurence 2B: Finger, Tholl, Wood. RBI: Kornacker 3, Greco 2, Wood 2, Finger. WP: Hitney (3-0).