For the first time since 2006, the VASJ Baseball Team has advanced to play in the District Championship Game. The Vikings earned their second straight shut-out by defeating Wickliffe 1-0 last night at Lakewood High School.
In a game where both teams’ pitchers had their best stuff, hits were extremely difficult to find. VASJ and Wickliffe combined for only 3 hits in the game. However, VASJ was able to capitalize on 3 Wickliffe errors to score the games only run and advance to the District Final for the first time in 13 years.
The Vikings threatened to put a big number on the board in the first inning as they loaded the bases thanks to three walks issued by Wickliffe. VASJ was unable to find the clutch hit though and Wickliffe managed to escape a big deficit early in the game. After going down in order in the 2nd inning, Junior Jake Smith led off the third inning earning a free pass to first by standing in the box and being hit by a pitch. After an error and a fielder’s choice by Wickliffe, Smith found himself at third base as the go ahead run. Another error by Wickliffe allowed Smith to cross the plate as the only run in the game.
Normally, one run would not be enough to secure a victory. However, one run was all VASJ ace, Kyle Trickett, needed to send the Vikings to the district championship game. The lefty was dominant once again in the postseason, going the distance for a complete game 2 hit shutout of Wickliffe. Trickett set the tone early, striking out the side in the first inning on his way to 12Ks in the game. Over VASJ’s two postseason games thus far, Trickett has thrown 2 complete game shutouts, while striking out 24 opposing batters.
Coach Dennis Woods is proud of the way Trickett has developed from the beginning of the year. Saying, “Kyle has learned how to become more of a pitcher rather than a thrower.” He continues, “At the beginning of the year we were having issues with pitch counts and being unable to go deep into games, but he is a tremendous worker and competitor and all of his hard work is paying off right now.”
As dominant as Trickett has been, the VASJ defense behind him has been equally outstanding in the postseason. The infield of Jake Smith, Jalen McMillian, Johnathan Cook, and Liam Brown have been keeping balls in the infield, turning double plays and making sure all ground balls on the infield turn into outs. While the infielders have been taking care of balls on the ground, the outfielders, Kobie Parker, Andrew Oriani, Larry Osborne, and Nate Oriani, have been doing their jobs just as well by running down fly balls that were potential hits and cutting balls off in the gaps to hold runners to singles.
Coach Woods understands the importance of the defense behind Trickett. “This is our fifth consecutive game where we have not had an error in the field. We have put so much work in this season and the guys began to believe in themselves that they can do it and we are playing our best defensive baseball right now.”
VASJ will go up against number 1 seed Kirtland in the District Final on Wednesday May 22nd. Coach Woods is looking forward to the challenge, while reflecting on how far the team has come since the preseason. “Back in March, who in the area would have thought that we would be playing for a district title at the end of the year? The guys have worked so hard throughout the season and deserve everything that is happening for them right now.”
Looking ahead to Kirtland Coach Woods knows one thing for sure, the Vikings will come aggressive and ready to play, “Kirtland will be tough, but we will be ready to step in the box and swing the bats, put balls in play and make things happen.”
First pitch on Wednesday is scheduled for 5:00pm at Lakewood High School.