Vikings finish regular season, head to state first round May 5

Vikings shortstop Daniel Lopez attempts to get a Bagdad runner out at second as Payce Mortensen backs him up.

Photo by Wendy Howell.

Vikings shortstop Daniel Lopez attempts to get a Bagdad runner out at second as Payce Mortensen backs him up.

The Vikings baseball team took on a pair of potential playoff foes in the final week of the regular season, topping Joseph City (8) 6-0 April 25, but falling to Bagdad (2) 8-3 April 26.

The win April 25 saw the Vikings gain a dose of revenge against the same pitcher that shut them down in a 7-2 loss April 4. In that game, hard-throwing Joseph City senior Bryndon Buckley struck out 17 Vikings hitters and limited them to just two hits, often taking advantage of swings outside of the strike zone. But this time Vikings hitters made contact early and often, spraying five hits while forcing the Joseph City defense into seven errors.

Leadoff hitter Daniel Lopez got things going in the first inning, reaching base on an error and coming around to score on another error. The Vikings went down quietly in the second and third innings, but they struck for three runs in the fourth. This time, the rally was started by DH Tate Grantham reaching base on a dropped third strike, followed by RBI singles from Christian Ramirez and Angel Ayala. The Vikings tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning on the strength of hits by Ramirez and Zack Perkins. Payce Mortensen also singled for the Vikings.

The six runs would prove more than enough cushion for Vikings starting pitcher Ramirez, who took advantage of Joseph City’s aggressive approach at the plate to cruise to a complete-game, three-hit shutout on a mere 74 pitches. Ramirez struck out five while walking just three, and was backed by strong infield and outfield defense.

On April 26, following the pregame Senior Day festivities the Vikings got off to another strong start in the regular season finale against Bagdad. They scored a run in the first after Perkins reached base on an error and was driven home by Grantham on a screaming line drive to right field that went all the way to the fence.

Coming into the game, Bagdad had a team batting average above .400 and was averaging 11 hits and 12 runs per game. But Vikings starting pitcher Quinn Howell worked around two walks and a hit to hold the potent Sultan offense scoreless through the first two innings. However, Bagdad struck for three runs in the third inning, taking advantage of another pair of walks and a misplayed sacrifice bunt attempt.

The Sultans added single runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings before Howell was lifted from the game after reaching the pitch count limit. He was followed by relievers Joe Zabala and Perkins, who allowed an additional three runs over the final 2 1/3 innings because of a combination of Viking defensive miscues and timely Bagdad hitting. Over the course of the game Vikings pitchers limited Bagdad to just seven hits, but it was five errors and four wild pitches that really maximized the damage inflicted by the Sultan offense.

Vikings hitters continued to battle throughout the game against Bagdad starter Benjamin Loveall, regularly putting runners on base before hitting into hard outs (including a rally-killing double play groundout to end the sixth inning). They managed to scratch across another run in the fourth after Howell led off with a walk and was brought home on an RBI groundout by Frankie Kramer.

Then in the seventh, the Vikings mounted their noisiest rally of the day. They scored a run and loaded the bases to bring the tying run to the on-deck circle, thanks to hits from Carsten Brinkworth and Lopez and an 8-pitch walk by Grantham. But a final hard-hit ball to third base was fielded cleanly and ended the rally.

When the final 1A conference rankings were released April 27, the Vikings ended up ninth and will have a (second) rematch against eighth ranked Joseph City in the opening round of the playoffs May 5 (4 p.m. at the Goodyear Baseball Complex).Any potential revenge against Bagdad would have to wait for a rematch of sorts of last fall’s 1A football championship game, as the Vikings and Sultans cannot meet again until the 1A baseball state championship game May 13.


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