Baseball: Southland Vikings ready for new season
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media May 26, 2014 7:16PM
Southland Vikings pitcher Chris Chigas | File photo
Southland Vikings 2014 Schedule
x-Denotes Midwest Collegiate League game; home games at Homewood-Flossmoor High School; home game time: 7 p.m. Exceptions: 1 p.m., June 17; 3 p.m., June 29; 5:30 p.m., July 25; 6 p.m., June 22, July 6, July 26, July 27.
27, x-at NW Indiana Oilmen; 29 x-at Joliet Admirals; 31, x-at Joliet.
1, x-at DuPage County Hounds; 3, x-NW Indiana; 4, x-at NW Indiana; 5, x-Chicago Zephyrs; 6-7, x-at Chicago; 8, x-at DuPage County; 10, x-at Chicago; 11, x-NW Indiana; 12, x-at NW Indiana; 13, x-DuPage County; 14, x-at Joliet; 17, x-Joliet; 18, x-NW Indiana; 20, x-Lexington Snipes; 21, x-at DuPage County; 22, x-Joliet; 24, at Michigan City Lakers; 25, x-at Lexington; 27, x-at Lexington; 28, x-at DuPage; 29, x-Lexington.
1, at Michigan City Lakers; 2, x-DuPage County; 4-5, x-at NW Indiana; 6, x-Joliet; 7, Michigan City Lakers; 11, Michigan City Lakers; 12, x-Lexington; 13, x-at Lexington; 15, x-Chicago; 16, x-Joliet; 18, x-DuPage County; 19, x-at Lexington; 20, x-at DuPage County; 22, x-at Joliet; 23, x-at NW Indiana; 24, x-at Lexington; 25, x-Lexington; 26-27, x-Chicago; 29-31, MCL Playoffs, semifinals.
1-3, MCL playoffs, finals.
Updated: June 28, 2014 6:23AM
Southland Vikings coach Chris Cunningham isn’t ready to make any huge, sweeping season predictions.
He is willing, though, to say he likes his team and its potential.
The Vikings, the defending league champions in the Midwest Collegiate League, kick off their 2014 schedule at 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. the NW Indiana Oilmen in Whiting, Indiana.
“It’s hard to tell right now (about expectations), but we’re going to have a pretty good team,” Cunningham said. “We can match up with everybody, but it will come down to pitching, defense, and some timely hitting. I do like the team.”
The Vikings won the team’s first championship in 2013, sweeping the 2012 league champion Oilmen.
The Midwest Collegiate League, entering its fifth season, is composed of six teams featuring college players from all levels playing in Illinois and Indiana.
The Vikings, who play their home games at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, have 45 regular-season games before a two-round playoff format that begins in late July.
Southland baseball fans will recognize many players from the Vikings, including UIC’s Jeff Boehm (Mount Carmel), Prairie State’s Bobby Sheppard (Oak Forest), South Suburban’s Stefano Belmonte (St. Rita), John Carroll’s Rob Cifelli (Marian Catholic), Indiana’s Chris Sujka (Mount Carmel), Iowa’s Dan Potempa (Providence), Southern Illinois’ Aaron Hauge (Homewood-Flossmoor), Grand Valley State’s Evan Nietfeldt (Homewood-Flossmoor) and Phoenix College’s Chris Chigas (Oak Lawn).
Cunningham is psyched to see what his roster can do.
“This will be Potempa’s second year for us, and he’s just a really solid hitter,” Cunningham said. “Sujka is just a gamer; we can put him in the infield, outfield, wherever we need him, and Nietfeldt is coming off a great season at Grand Valley State.”
Nietfeldt went 9-1 with a 2.33 ERA.
Sujka will join the Vikings as soon as Indiana’s season comes to an end. The Hoosiers are hosting an NCAA regional.
Whomever the players and whenever they show up, the goals remain the same.
“We are looking to play hard and work to improve those things you struggled with during the season,” Cunningham said. “Base-running, situational hitting, working on some things, and we’re taking batting practice every day. We try to treat it like the minor leagues.”
Cunningham is an assistant coach at South Suburban. He also is an SSC grad and holds baseball program records for career batting average (.435) and career runs (135).
“We’ve got a new group that we’ll try and mold together,” Cunningham said. “It will be a fun challenge to try to bring these guys together.”