Tough Breaks And Walks Lead To Defeat For Vikings

By: Brandon Januska

Highland, Ind. – July 21, 2023 – The Southland Vikings held a lead for a majority of the game on Friday night in Highland, but ultimately came up short as they fell to the Panthers 6-4.

The Vikings took a 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning against Alberto Lamas thanks to RBI singles from Colin Small, Charlie Schau and Jimmy Gurgone.

The Panthers cut into that lead in the bottom of the second without recording a hit as they benefited from a hit by pitch and two walks issued by Will Moell.

The Panthers then added another run in the third inning after a leadoff walk eventually scored on a Jason Ballard sacrifice fly.

The score remained 3-2 until the sixth inning when Jimmy Gurgone drove in his second run of the game with a sacrifice fly to score Charlie Dumo who led off the inning with a pinch hit double.

Will Moell managed to work around another leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth inning to keep the score 4-2 before handing it over to the bullpen.

In his six innings of work, Moell allowed two runs on just two hits but also issued six walks and hit a batter. Four of his six innings started with a walk or hit by pitch, with two of those runners eventually coming around to score, but he was able to limit the damage overall with the help of nine strikeouts to bring his league leading total to 54 on the season.

In the seventh inning, Michael Freitas, a right-handed pitcher from Olivet Nazarene University, took over on the mound as he made his Vikings debut. After Jacoby Radcliffe was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, Matt Merk managed to gun him down attempting to steal second for the second time in the game and it appeared that momentum was on the Vikings’ side.

The pendulum would quickly shift in the other direction however, as a close play at first ended in an infield single for Kyle Radcliffe and then George Bilecki followed with a ground ball in the direction of second baseman Jack Fitzharris. The ball looked like a potential inning ending double play ball off of the bat, but a late bounce sent the ball over the head of Fitzharris for a base hit to put runners at the corners with only one out for 2023 All-Star Game MVP Kevin Bushnell.

On an 0-2 count with Bilecki running on the pitch from first, Freitas managed to get Bushnell to hit a ball on the ground to short, but it went under the glove of Jaylon Nauden and into left field to cut the lead to 4-3.

After Bushnell stole second base to put runners at second and third, Jason Ballard came through with the biggest hit of the game as he smacked a double into left center field to give the Panthers a 5-4 lead.

One more run would come across in the frame and Anthony Scanlon kept the Vikings off the board despite some hard contact to give the Panthers a huge win as they moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Northern League standings after the Miracle lost to the Generals.

Despite the loss for the Vikings, there were positive takeaways from the game, both on the mound and at the plate.

At the plate, Colin Small made strong contact with two hits and a loud out on a lineout to third in the eighth inning and Charlie Schau reached base five times with his second four hit outing in the last three games.

“I’m just working on simplifying everything,” Schau said of his recent approach. “I was doing too much early on, so I simplified it to just see ball, hit ball. Plain and simple.”

On the mound, Stephen Schwartz made his second appearance in July after going over a month between his first two outings as he tossed a scoreless eighth inning with a pair of punchouts.

“I threw two pitches, just a fastball and a curveball,” Schwartz said of Friday’s outing. “Curveball felt good, and the fastball was living on the outside corner because that’s where the strike zone was today.”

The Vikings (22-18) are in Highland again on Saturday for another round against the Panthers (18-23). First pitch is at 5pm with Ty Chaney Jr. expected to start on the mound for the Vikings.    

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