Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Vikings stretch win streak to five games

| March 20, 2024 1:20 AM

After splitting their last two series, the Vikings hoped to continue to take steps in the right direction as they hosted Grays Harbor Community College for a four-game series.

Game one began with Hayden Schooler being handed the ball for his fourth start of the season, where he was not as sharp as he had been in past starts. Schooler struggled with his command, walking six batters over his five innings of work while punching out seven before handing the ball off to James Macrae to protect a 5-4 lead. While Schooler grinded through his outing, his ability to strike hitters out allowed him to escape several self-induced jams. With Grays Harbor scratching runs across in each of the first three innings, the Viking offense was able to respond and found a way to take a 5-4 lead after three innings. Viking pitching settled in with Macrae tossing three innings of both scoreless and hitless baseball while striking out two batters before handing it off to Viking closer Bryce Laforest, who was looking to collect his first collegiate save. The Viking offense went quiet after the third inning leaving Laforest a one-run lead going into the ninth. Laforest managed to throw a scoreless ninth inning while surrendering one hit and striking out two, to collect the save and secure the victory in game one. Ryley Doig, Oak Held and JT Penrod led the Viking offense collecting two hits apiece while Kyle Belich delivered a crucial two-RBI single to give the Vikings the lead early in the ball game.

After a nail-biter in game one, the Vikes leaned on freshman right-hander Garin Gurtler to carry them to a victory. After a rough college debut, Gurtler has settled in with back-to-back quality starts going into his outing versus Grays Harbor. Gurtler kept the trend going, tossing six quality innings and surrendering two runs on six hits while the Viking offense exploded. The Vikings recorded 15 hits in seven innings to complete a 14-2 mercy rule, led by Oak Held’s two hits and four RBI, while Roman Basurto, Doig and Davis Chakos all had multi-hit games and each drove in three runs in the blowout win. Solid pitching and an offensive onslaught allowed the Vikes to stretch their winning streak to three. 

Game three came with sophomore pitcher Brett Nemechek getting handed the ball. Nemechek's outing mirrored Schooler's the day prior, as Nemechek struggled with his command; walking three and hitting five batters through five innings of work forced the sophomore to work out of jams regularly. The pitcher was able to navigate through the base running traffic he had created, leaving the game after five innings with a 4-1 Viking lead. Zach Engh came in and struggled, allowing three consecutive base runners without recording an out before handing the ball off to Aaron Mills, who limited the damage although the three-run lead had become a 4-3 ball game in the sixth inning. Big Bend added a run in the bottom of the sixth and two more in the eighth to take a 7-3 lead going into the 9th. Nolan Soderstrom came in to close the door and ran into some issues, giving up two hits and walking a batter along with an error on the defensive end, which allowed Grays Harbor to inch closer cutting the lead to 7-5 with two outs and runners on. Soderstrom collected the final out himself with an outstanding defensive play resulting in a 7-5 victory. Rory Swanson, Basurto, Kyler Nilson and Gunner Graves ran the Viking offense, each collecting two hits while scoring six of the seven BBCC runs.

After a tight game three, the freshman left-hander Brendan McKinley got the start on the mound to see if they could complete the four-game sweep. McKinley, who was riding a nine-inning scoreless streak, continued his dominance. With game four being a 7 inning game, the Vikings knew it was a sprint and had to act early. After failing to score in the first two innings, BBCC exploded for seven runs in the third and did not look back. Big Bend scored 11 runs on 13 hits in a five-inning, 10-run mercy rule as Basurto delivered a bases-loaded single to walk it off in the bottom of the fifth. All nine hitters collected at least one hit in the blowout, with Basurto and Doig each driving in three runs. McKinley was brilliant, tossing all five of the required innings and striking out three batters while allowing a single run in the top half of the fifth to complete the four-game sweep. 

"The guys were able to get it done this weekend,” head coach Chase Tunstall said. “They stayed true to their approach and executed at a high level this weekend. Our pitching staff showed signs of having the ability to weather the storm when things got a little rocky. Our offense had a monster weekend and were able to put up big numbers. It was nice to see the players trust the process up to this point and get back to .500. Excited to get back to work on Tuesday."

BBCC prepares to wrap up the preseason as they travel to the west side to play Pierce CC and Tacoma CC in doubleheaders this upcoming Friday and Saturday, respectively.