Baseball: Southland Vikings win second straight Midwest Collegiate League championship
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media August 2, 2014 9:26PM
Bobby Sheppard (10), Brandon Mallder (15), and Chase Fieldhouse (5) of the Southland Vikings all scored on a single by teammate Jeff Boehm as the ball skips away from DuPage Hounds catcher Brian Lees. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
vs. DuPage County Hounds; best-of-3
Game 1: Vikings 11,
Game 2: Vikings 12,
Updated: September 4, 2014 6:44AM
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Relying on the same formula they did all year, the Southland Vikings kept it simple Saturday: Let the ridiculously deep offense do its thing, then let the pitchers do the rest.
Stringing together an eight-run third inning, Southland rolled to a 12-3 win over DuPage County at Benedictine University in Lisle to claim its second Midwest Collegiate League title.
The Vikings are the first back-to-back champions in the league’s five-year history.
“We felt good, and we said in the dugout, ‘If we get them early, we’ve got a good chance,’ ” Southland’s Bobby Sheppard said. “Keep adding on runs, keep adding them on. Sure enough, we continued to hit.”
Southland (31-12) rolled through the MCL playoffs, sweeping two series in four games and scoring 46 runs in the process.
Good baseball players? Sure, but it was more than that in the estimation of Vikings manager Chris Cunningham.
“My one rule was, ‘Play hard and treat every game like it’s your last,’ ” Cunningham said. “This group wanted to win and wanted to play hard. They were playing for me, playing for themselves, and it was just a lot of fun to be around.”
As they did all season, the Vikings exploded for a big inning, scoring two in the second and then an eight-spot in the third against the Hounds (28-16).
Jeff Boehm (2 runs) opened things up in a big way with a bases-clearing opposite-field double to left-center in the third, putting Southland up 5-0.
“I’m down 0-2 (in the count) right away, and I got a fastball inside,” Boehm said. “I stuck with my two-strike approach and went with it, drove it out there. (It was a) big hit that gave us a lot of momentum.”
The Vikings batted around in the inning, sending 12 batters to the plate. Sheppard’s three-run triple hit the gap in right center, Southland going up 10-0 and never looking back.
Stefano Belmonte, Micah Rooke, Jerry Houston and Brandon Mallder (2 runs) all added RBI, and Dan Potempascored twice.
Evan Nietfeldt earned the win, allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts over six innings. Kevin Hallberg and Anthony Spangler pitched well in relief.
“Just a culmination of a pretty damn good group of guys,” Cunningham said. “Human beings along with good, quality baseball players. They really brought it every day. They expected to win, and that’s what you want.”