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Baseball: Southland Vikings top DuPage County Hounds 11-3 in Game 1 of MCL title series

Flossmoor IL - Friday August 1 2014: DuPage Hounds' Connor Kopach (7) gets tagged out plate by SouthlVikings' catcher Nate

Flossmoor, IL - Friday, August 1, 2014: DuPage Hounds' Connor Kopach (7) gets tagged out at the plate by Southland Vikings' catcher Nate Ruzich (28) during game 1 of the Midwest Collegiate League finals. | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media

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MCL
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Southland Vikings
vs. DuPage County Hounds; best-of-3

Game 1: Vikings 11, Hounds 3

Game 2: Saturday at Hounds (at Benedictine University), 6 p.m.

Game 3: Sunday at Vikings
(at Homewood-Flossmoor High School), 5 p.m.-x

x-if necessary

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Updated: August 2, 2014 4:23PM



One man down, next one steps up.

With No. 3 hitter and right field mainstay Chris Sujka unable to play in the Midwest Collegiate League Championship series after having Lasik surgery, the Southland Vikings didn’t panic.

Just next man up.

The Vikings kept on hitting Friday night in Game 1 of the Midwest Collegiate League championship series, cruising to an 11-3 win over DuPage County at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

“Losing Chris, that ain’t easy,” Southland’s Bobby Sheppard said with a smile. “Chase (Fieldhouse) steps up, and you just look at the lineup. Micah Rooke is on the bench the first series, and then the way he hits (Friday) ... we just got deep in the counts and let them make their mistakes.”

Southland (30-12) will look to sweep the Hounds (28-15) in the best-of-3 series in Game 2 at 6 p.m. Saturday at Benedictine in Lisle. Game 3, if necessary, will be at 5 p.m. Sunday at H-F.

The Vikings are a win away from becoming back-to-back MCL champions. They’ve scored 34 runs in three playoff games.

The Game 1 win came from a grind-it-out mentality at the plate. The Vikings finished with 10 hits and nine walks.

“You try to win the at-bat, win every pitch,” Southland’s Dan Potempa said. “Keep battling and just beat them, especially if the pitcher gets aggravated with foul balls. Whatever you’ve got inside, beat them.”

Sheppard finished with four RBI, while Potempa and Jeff Boehm had two apiece.

Trailing 3-2 in the fourth, Southland rattled off one of its signature big innings, piling up seven runs to go up 9-3, with Boehm and Sheppard getting two RBI apiece.

“You’re in the pitcher’s count so you’re trying to fight pitches away,” Sheppard said. “Get your pitch, stay on it and drive it.”

Rooke and Jerry Houston had two runs apiece for the Vikings. Potempa added a solo home run.

On the mound, Dan Wetzel shook off early struggles, firing eight strong innings. The Providence product got the win with eight strikeouts, eight hits and two walks, allowing just three hits over his final four innings.

A win away from the title, Southland won’t be letting the foot off the gas pedal Saturday. This is their shot; for some of them their last shot.

“We have the goal to win the whole thing,” Potempa said. “For a lot of us, this is our last year playing summer ball. The pitchers say, ‘Dang, it’s nice pitching in front of you guys. You’ll always give us runs.’ ”



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