VCSU shows strong spirit in 1-3 performance at DAC tourney

JAMESTOWN — The way Valley City State University baseball coach Casey Olney looks at it, the success his team had wasn’t necessarily in the box scores of its Dakota Athletic Conference preseason tournament games.
In the weekend, the team went 1-3. The Vikings lost double header at home Saturday to Dickinson State University and Jamestown College, but rebounded with a13-6 win over Dickinson Sunday in Jamestown before closing it out with a 12-2 loss to the Jimmies.
“I’m proud of our team’s efforts and attitude,” Olney said. “We did a better job (Sunday) than we did (Saturday). That’s the most important thing.
“They battled and that’s all we can ask for.”
In the team’s home opener Saturday against the Jimmies, the Vikings lost 8-6 at Charlie Brown Field. Ronnie Blagg struggled early, pitching only one inning and allowing four runs to eight batters.
The Vikings scored three in the bottom of the inning and went run for run with the Jimmies but couldn’t make up for the early deficit.
In the second game, a 5-2 loss to the Blue Hawks, the Vikings got strong pitching from Ryan Shaw and Ronnie Blagg, but struggled to convert hits into runs and finished with nine runners left on base.
It was a problem the Vikings avoided against Dickinson when the teams met again Sunday in Jamestown.
Though the Vikings left 10 runners on base, they also had 18 hits and won 13-6.
The key was plenty of momentum from the top of the lineup. All of Valley City’s top five hitters finished with at least two hits.
Leadoff hitter Preston Jensen went 3-5 at the place. Josh Evans went 4-5 from the two-spot, and was followed by Mike Gershman (2-5), Scott Stephenson (3-4) and Kyle Skinner (2-2 wit two sacrifices and a hit by pitch). Designated hitter Alex Vierria, who hit in the seven spot, also went 2-3.
At various points throughout the game, the Vikings relied primarily on basic singles into the shallow parts of the outfield to advance and score runners.
Of the team’s 18 hits, only two — a double by Kyle Skinner and a solo home run by Evans — were for extra bases.
It was a strategy that paid off with three runs in the first and second innings, then later with a five-run sixth inning that turned a 7-6 lead into a 12-6 lead.
Pitcher Derek Zitzow, who threw a complete game, allowed six runs in the first three innings. He allowed three in the first, three in the third.
Olney said he stuck with Zitzow in part because of a strained bullpen after Saturday’s games, but also because the coaching staff felt “he could get the job done.”
“He was right on the edge of being pulled a few times but he really settled in, started locating (his pitches) the last four innings and was able to finish it out,” Olney said.
As the game progressed, Zitzow got better and better. He didn’t allow any runs after the third inning and didn’t allow a hit after the fourth inning.
The Vikings closed out the tournament with a 12-2 loss to Jamestown.
In the loss, the Vikings were continually haunted by a combination of errors and allowed hits. Jamestown’s first runner of the game reached on an error, then advanced to second on a passed ball. Later in the first inning, a runner scored on a wild pitched, and several Jimmies had timely doubles off the right field wall (a target for hitters due to large gusts of wind) or down the third base line.
The Vikings trailed 5-0 after the first inning and allowed no more than two runs an inning the rest of the game.
The team later finished with five errors and only eight of the Jimmies’ 12 runs were earned.
Only Stephenson and Jensen had more than one hit for the Vikings offensively.
Despite the score, Olney was pleased with his team, which tried to find an offensive rhythm throughout, but couldn’t get hits to fall like they needed to.
“I know we only scored two runs but we had a lot of good effort,” Olney said.