Vikings go two and one in season opener
Kris Thorsteinson charges toward home plate, scoring the first run of the game against Wrangell on Saturday.
Vikings baseball hosted a season opening series against Thunder Mountain, Craig and Wrangell over the weekend.
Taylor Pullar started on the mound in Thursday’s opener against Juneau’s Thunder Mountain High School.
“It was a good game. Taylor battled hard, and pitched over a hundred pitches,” said Vikings Head Coach Jim Engell.
Despite a home run from Pullar in the first inning, the Vikings dropped down 2-1 and spent the whole game battling from behind.
The Thunder Mountain Falcons capitalized on defensive errors made by the Vikings and grew their lead.
In the 4th inning the Vikings mounted a come back, shrinking the Falcons lead to 4-6.
“We just couldn’t punch the runs across when we needed to,” said Engell.
“We had the go-ahead run on base in the 6th inning, but could only muster up one run, and then went one, two, three in the seventh inning to end the game,” he said.
The final score was a win for Thunder Mountain, 7-5.
“Taylor pitched a good game for us. Eight strike outs, but had 9 walks, which is very uncharacteristic. He tends to be a real command pitcher, but he couldn’t get the corners to be called strikes for us, but that’s just part of the game,” said Engell.
“Dalton Small had a really good game for us. He had two hits, a single and double. And then Taylor’s home run, and a couple other guys picked up hits. It was a good game,” said Engell.
“The difference in the game probably was the fact that we made some mistakes. Not to take anything away from Thunder Mountain, they were definitely an improved team. We beat them twice last year in Juneau. I would expect that as we face them a couple of times, the rest of the season, we’ll have some good quality games against them,” said Engell.
Friday the Vikings played the Craig Panthers.
“Craig surprised us,” said Engell. “They came off a win against Thunder Mountain earlier in the day and jumped out on us real quick. I think we were down 7-0 through the first three innings. Then we battled back and got a couple runs on the board. Again the big difference for us was errors, some costly mistakes gave up some runs.”
Sophomore Vince Kowalski started on the mound. He had four strike outs and only two walks, but then the Panthers started hitting him successfully, so freshman Colby Bell was brought in as relief pitcher for the third through seventh innings and gave up only two runs.
“Colby pitched a tremendous weekend for us, his first high school games,” said Engell.
Like in the previous day’s game, the Vikings out hit the Panthers.
“So, kind of frustrating to know that we out hit our opponents all three nights, and only came away with one win. We’d have a lot of runners on base and have rallies that just get cut short. We had some costly outs,” said Engell. “But that’s just the first games out of the gate. You hope that you play well, and that you have a lot of stuff to improve on, and we certainly did.”
Against Craig ,Taylor Pullar hit two doubles. Vince Kowalski had a double. Dan Loucks hit a single and double.
“Jared Volk executed a great sacrifice bunt that got a runner to third base that came around and scored eventually,” said Engell.
“It was definitely another game that was winnable, so I think if we can eliminate our errors it will make a huge difference for us,” said Engell.
On Saturday the Vikings faced Wrangell.
“In that game we eliminated our mistakes,” said Engell.
“Dan Loucks start for us on the mound, and pitched four great innings for us, but we were down four to nothing and he was getting high on pitch count so we brought Colby Bell back in to face Wrangell,” said Engell.
Bell didn’t allow any Wrangell runs in the fifth, sixth or seventh innings.
“We were able to muster up, and come back and capitalize on some of their mistakes to win it 6-4,” said Engell.
“We talked a lot in the pregame about the importance of playing sound defense and just playing aggressive offense and those two things really came into effect,” said the coach. “We were able to play defense without any mistakes, and we were able to steal bases and advance on errors. That really set up what eventually became the runs for us.”
Colby Bell made a big impression. He pitched eight innings total and had just two runs scored against him.
“His earned run average is .88 which is an amazing earned run average especially for a freshman. He had 13 strikeouts with only two base-on balls and gave up only two hits. It’s going to be really fun, watching him grow and mature over the next 3.5 years of baseball,” said Engell.
One big difference on the Viking line up this year is a far deeper pitching staff than recent years. The coaches have five potential starting pitchers and four solid relief guys, along with three players who can catch.
“To just be able to work the line up, to make it the most effective we can possibly throw at a team, and to continue progressing our pitching as it has been, and get good outings from every guy… that’s a real positive thing for us,” said Engell.
Daniel Cardenas gets a hit against Wrangell.
Baseball fans in Petersburg are in luck this season. In addition to the home games, Petersburg will host the Region V Tournament in May.
“It’s a tough league. We face everybody, so if you’re going to get to a state tournament you’ve gotta get through Juneau and Sitka which are typically the top teams, but you’ve also got Ketchikan… it’s an uphill battle, but it’s something that we can shoot for, and our town is gonna be able to see a lot of good baseball,” said Engell.
Next week the Vikings hop on Breakaway to Wrangell for a game or two then catch the ferry and continue down to Ketchikan.
“We’re not quite sure how many games we’re going to play yet, but we’ll play as many games as we can get,” said Petersburg’s coach.