April 15, 2011

Four-Run Seventh Inning Helps the Vikings Earn First League Win of the Season

April 15, 2011

Game One Box Score
Game Two Box Score

Contact: Dan Carr

AVON, Ohio - The Vikings brought in four runs in the seventh inning and recorded nine hits with no errors, defeating Milwaukee, 8-4, for the Cleveland State baseball team's first Horizon League win of the season on Friday (April 15).

"[The win was] huge," head coach Kevin Kocks said. "The kids have been fighting hard, doing everything that we asked them to do, and we played with a lot of enthusiasm tonight."

Alex Johnson was the offensive star of the night for CSU, hitting a home run, a double and a single with four RBI. With the Vikings trailing, 1-0, in the bottom of the fifth, Johnson hit a three-run blast over the left field wall for his second homer of the year, sparking an eight run output over the next three innings.

The Vikings had to shake off a tenacious Panther squad that refused to go down quietly, as Milwaukee tied the contest twice before CSU ultimately took the lead for good. UWM's Nick Lingvay hit a two-RBI single down the middle in the top of the sixth to knot the score at three and, after an RBI single from Anthony Sambula allowed the Vikings to retake the lead in the sixth, the Panthers' Sam Sivilotti hit a grounder towards first that allowed a runner on third to score.

The defining moment of the game, however, came in the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out on the board, Dylan Schwegler on third thanks to a triple and the walk-up music of Britney Spears fading in the background, Johnson hit a fly ball deep into right center that came down safely for an RBI double. The momentum was squarely on the Vikings' shoulders from that play on. John Calhoun brought Johnson home on the next play, Zach Thompson singled, Calhoun scored on a throwing error and Matt Kirkwood brought in Thompson with a double, all with just the one out on the board.

"That seventh inning was big," Kocks said. "We were able to put together some hits and, when you get a three or four run lead heading into the late innings, it makes you more comfortable. We were able to focus on defense from that point forward and we didn't give up any big plays."

Brandon Cooper (3-1) also had a big night for the Vikings. He earned the win after relieving Coty Bates in the sixth, allowing only one run on two hits and striking out three Panther batters. Bates finished his day with two earned runs allowed and also threw three strikeouts.

"Cooper did a great job of coming in and pounding the strike zone," Kocks said. "I was also happy with Bates' performance. Both our pitchers in that game played well."

Cleveland State won despite being outhit, 11-9. Milwaukee also had three errors in the contest while the Vikings had none.

The victory came in the second contest of a double header with the Vikings dropping an 8-3 decision to the Panthers in the first game of the day. That contest was also a close affair until late in the game, as Milwaukee broke a 3-3 tie with a four-run eighth inning.

The Vikings had the early lead in the first contest, scoring on an RBI single from Thompson in first inning and a wild pitch in the third. After Milwaukee cut into the lead with a run in the top of the fifth, CSU responded with a run of its own in the bottom half of the frame, Tom Carter hit a sacrifice fly far enough into left field to allow Kirkwood to score from third.

The Panther defense grew tougher from that point on, however, as the Vikings managed only two hits and no runs the rest of the way. Milwaukee, meanwhile, tied the game with a pair of runs in the sixth and then took advantage of a four-run, eighth inning that featured three CSU pitching changes to take the victory.

"We fell apart a little bit in that eighth inning," Kocks said. "We stopped pounding the strike zone, had some walks and that allowed Milwaukee to get comfortable. They started getting some hits and we weren't able to respond."

Anthony Sambula (2-5) was credited with the loss, as he was accountable for five runs on eight hits. He struck out six batters in 7.1 innings of work.

"I was pleased with Sambula's play," Kocks said. "Through seven innings he pitched well enough for us to win, and I think we could have taken advantage of some opportunities earlier in the game that would have made a big difference."

The Vikings stranded runners on third base four times during the game and finished with 14 runners left on base.

"If we bring home any of those guys, it's a different ballgame," Kocks said. "If we had built a bigger lead earlier, Milwaukee would have playing on its toes and may not have had that big inning late.

"The difference in the two games today was that, in the second one, we took advantage of those opportunities and didn't let them back in the game."

CSU was again outhit, 12-6, with two of the Vikings' hits coming from Calhoun. Thompson and Carter each had RBI in the game.

Cleveland State is now 6-24 on the year and 1-10 in the Horizon League. The Panthers move to 14-17 overall with a 6-2 league mark.

The two teams will be back at All Pro Freight Stadium on Saturday (April 16) to finish this weekend series with a 1:00 p.m. contest. That start time is subject to change due to forecasts of rain, and details will be posted as they are available on CSUVikings.com

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