With a big four-game series against Jamestown coming up this weekend, the Valley City State University baseball team used a different pitching strategy than it normally would in a double header sweep to NCAA Division II Northern (S.D.) State University.
Instead of starting one guy and keeping him in as long as possible, the team constantly rotated pitchers, splitting the 14 total innings amongst 10 different pitchers. None stayed in longer than two innings.
“Guys need to get work and this is the time to do that,” Olney said. “You’ve got to keep them sharp for the weekend and that was what we did today.”
It was a strategy that largely worked for the Vikings, who played largely solid games, but lost 9-7 and 6-0 due to untimely issues defensively.
In the first game, the Vikings took a strong early lead by stringing together five runs on three hits and two errors in the second inning.
The Vikings added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth and pitchers Ronnie Blagg, Derek Zitzow and Ryan Shaw allowed only two runs in the first six innings to give the Vikings a five run lead going into the final inning.
But in the seventh, the Vikings couldn’t hang on to the lead.
Pitcher Preston Jensen struck out the first batter, but the next three batters reached base. After a sacrifice fly scored one, Jensen walked or hit the next three batters, which made the score 7-5.
His replacement, Colin Waldner, didn’t fare much better. On his first batter, third baseman Casey Clark had an error on a quick grounder that would have ended the game but instead allowed a run to score, making it 7-6. Waldner then struggled to find the strike zone, walking the next batter to tie it, and hitting the one after to give the Wolves the lead.
The last batter of the inning had a single to make it 9-7.
The Vikings loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t get a run across.
“We had the game well in hand and couldn’t finish it,” Olney said. “It’s obviously disappointing when something like that happens.”
In the second game, Valley City’s pitchers only gave up five hits.
Problem was that Northern State made the most of what they got, finishing with four extra base hits, including two home runs.
The first big hit was in the top of the second inning when Robert Fahlin hit a double to deep left-center field, scoring the two runners on base, who had reached on an error and a walk.
The Wolves didn’t score again until the fifth inning when Zach Miller hit a home run to left field. Their final runs came in the top of the sixth when Fahlin hit a three-run home run, knocking in runners that had reached on a walk and an error to start the inning.
“They put the game out of reach with that three run home run,” Olney said.
The Vikings struggled to reach base in the game and were limited to three hits.