Baseball: Southland Vikings earn MCL crown
By Dave Melton For Sun-Times Media August 4, 2013 10:48PM
The Southland Vikings' Tyler Hanson scores ast the throw home to NWI Oilmen catcher Ty Hogan arrives late. | John Booz~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 6, 2013 9:44AM
In 2012, the Northwest Indiana Oilmen grabbed the Midwest Collegiate League championship in their inaugural season. One year later, the Southland Vikings earned their first MCL crown in their fourth year of existence, completing the championship sweep with a 4-1 victory Sunday night at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
“Finally! After four years!” exclaimed Southland manager Chris Cunningham while posing for photos after the game. “It definitely feels good to be a champion, especially when you have to beat one of the better teams in the league. We just got hot at the right time and had some solid pitching down the stretch.”
Solid pitching may have been an understatement. The Vikings pitching staff allowed a total of five runs in their four playoff games — all victories.
On Sunday night, it was Chris Chigas’ turn — again — to steal the spotlight. Chigas pitched six innings of no-hit baseball against DuPage County in the first round and was dominant against the Oilmen on Sunday.
Chigas struck out 10 in eight innings, allowing just three walks and two hits. He hit his best groove between the second and sixth innings, retiring 12 consecutive batters.
“I just had everything working. I was hitting the zone and keeping the ball down,” said Chigas, an Oak Lawn native. “All four pitches were working and I kept them off-balance the whole way.”
“They’re just a good team,” Oilmen manager Justin Huisman said. “Their starters did an outstanding job in the postseason and all season long. Their offense has been good all summer, too. We just made too many mistakes in both games and against a good team you can’t do that.”
A throwing error in the third helped move Southland’s Sean Beesley to third, and Indiana University’s Chris Sujka, a former Mount Carmel standout, drove in the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly.
With runners on second and third in the fourth, Southland’s Mark Munizzi hit a hard grounder to Oilmen second baseman Joe Houlihan, who fired home. On a close play, Dan Potempa was ruled safe at the plate, prompting stern arguments from Oilmen starter Jimmy McNamara and Huisman.
“I haven’t been that worked up in a long time,” said McNamara, who allowed three runs in seven innings.
McNamara ended the threat with two strikeouts.
Southland added runs in both the fifth and eighth innings, giving reliever Alex Lesiak a four-run cushion in the ninth. He allowed a run on a sacrifice fly by Craig Austgen.
That was all the damage. A popout to short ended the game, clinching the championship for the Vikings.