Vikings rally on second day to beat Irish
One visit to Kankakee was all Pete Lotus had originally planned for St. Laurence last week.
When Monday’s Chicago Catholic League crossover contest between host Bishop McNamara and the Vikings was halted by rain in the third inning, however, Lotus was left with no choice but to plan a return trip down Interstate 57 for Thursday. And considering St. Laurence was trailing 2-1 when the game was suspended, another southern journey was an easy sell to his athletes, particularly since a better weather day was forecast.
“It was raining the entire game [on Monday] and it was tough,” Lotus said. “It was pouring and it was very difficult to score without benefit of some walks.”
The Fightin’ Irish had used two of those, plus a couple hit batsmen to collect their pair of runs in the first inning, but they were unable to score after that. While pitcher Alex Hitney settled down and held Bishop Mac’s offense in check, his Vikings teammates quickly gave him a lead to protect once action resumed.
Five runs in the fourth and seven in the fifth gave St. Laurence an unexpectedly lopsided 13-2 triumph and kept prospects for a perfect week intact. And on Saturday, the Vikings completed the task by shutting out Providence Catholic 8-0 in their CCL Blue opener.
Also banked in the win column last week was a 7-4 conquest of St. Joseph on Wednesday. The Chargers actually led 4-1 before St. Laurence staged a fifth-inning rally to overtake them.
“It was one of those games where we were not having great at-bats and we let them hang around,” Lotus said. “We kind of struggled [early].”
Offensive difficulties have not been completely foreign to the Vikings (17-2, 6-1) of late. They were blanked by De La Salle in a recent outing and failed to generate a robust attack on a few other occasions.
“Hopefully, it’s over, but every year we’ve gone through [something like] this,” Lotus said. “That’s kind of what we talked about — there’s going to be games where we don’t score 12 runs. The worst thing to do is to keep thinking about it and have unproductive at-bats.”
A St. Joseph error and two hit batsmen aided St. Laurence’s comeback on Wednesday, but Rob Gutierrez (two RBI), Brad Wood (RBI) and Mike Kornacker all hit safely as well. Kevin White’s double in the sixth capped the Vikings’ scoring.
John Riordan earned the pitching win in relief of Frank Greco. Riordan allowed only one hit over 3 1/3 innings and struck out five.
White (two-run single), Greco (RBI single), Wood (sacrifice fly) and Nate Tholl (RBI double) all stepped forward to give St. Laurence a boost on Thursday. Their combined efforts put the Vikings in command versus the Irish and made the team's ensuing seven-run explosion icing on the victory cake.
“We didn’t play great on Wednesday, so I was a little concerned [about Thursday], but I was confident we’d be able to score one run and get back into it,” Lotus said.
Roger Wilson’s bases-clearing triple culminated St. Laurence’s second onslaught in impressive fashion. Preceding it were four other hits and RBI from Tholl (two), Riordan and Wood.
The one-sided triumph was a bit unexpected, not only because of how close things were at the time of stoppage on Monday but due also to the Vikings’ history at Bishop McNamara.
“It’s always a weird place to play,” Lotus said. “For a few years there, it seemed we were losing games in the last inning on home runs.”
Those were the days when the Irish and St. Laurence fought to see who would rule over the Catholic League White. The Vikings have since become an integral member of the Blue Division, and today’s players really know nothing about Bishop Mac being one of St. Laurence’s main rivals of the past.
“It’s different now,” Lotus said. “Those games that have the intensity that Bishop Mac had then are played against Providence, Mt. Carmel and St. Rita now.”
St. Laurence 8
Providence Catholic 0
So respected have the Vikings become in the Blue Division that the Celtics trotted out their top gun, Jake Godfrey, to pitch to them on Saturday. Godfrey has been talked about as a potential high draft choice in Major League Baseball’s 2014 amateur draft, and as such he attracted a hefty number of scouts.
Those talent evaluators also got a look at Kornacker, who was every bit Godfrey’s equal. In fact, St. Laurence’s ace held the upper hand as he silenced Providence Catholic on three hits while whiffing 12 batters.
Godfrey was certainly no slouch, as evidenced by the four-hitter he threw. The Vikings didn’t solve him until the fourth inning when Kornacker singled, but that hit put St. Laurence’s attack in motion and got a three-run rally underway.
A Celtics error and wild pitch both factored into the scoring, but so, too, did White’s RBI single. Wilson added a run-producing hit in the fifth and Mike Finger slammed a three-RBI triple to highlight another uprising one stanza later.
“The second time around [the order], we had much better at-bats,” Lotus said. “We were much more selective about what we could handle against a pitcher with very good stuff.
“We’re definitely going to see some good pitchers and guys who can hit [in the CCL Blue]. Every game is going to be a battle, but that’s kind of what we’ve prepared for.”
A rematch with Providence this past Monday was slated to begin the Vikings’ week. A home-and-home series with Mt. Carmel on Wednesday and Saturday followed.
St. Laurence 010 57 — 13
Bishop McNamara 200 00 — 2
St. Laurence 2B: Tholl. 3B: Wilson. RBI: Tholl 3, Wilson 3, White 2, Wood 2, Greco, Riordan. WP: Hitney (5-0).
St. Joseph 100 300 0 — 4
St. Laurence 100 051 x — 7
St. Laurence 2B: Miller, White. RBI: Gutierrez 2, White 2, Tholl, Wilson, Wood. WP: Riordan (2-0).
Providence Catholic 000 000 0 — 0
St. Laurence 000 350 x — 8
St. Laurence 2B: Finger. RBI: Finger 3, Miller, White, Wilson. WP: Kornacker (5-1).