MOLINE – On Senior Day, four seniors helped erase 40 years of frustration for the Augustana College baseball team on Saturday afternoon.|
Led by regular senior starters Grant Stewart, Jacob Van Duyne and Nick Tenerelli and reserve John Crook, the Vikings pounded their way to two big victories over visiting Millikin. The 16-6 and 12-2 victories -- both shortened to seven innings by the 10-run rule -- gave the Vikings the three-game sweep and their first CCIW championship since the 1974 season.
The celebratory pile-on near the pitcher's mound after Game 2 winning pitcher Walter White (6-0) enticed a final infield popout seemingly allowed all 40 years of pent up frustration to spill out on the field at the Swanson/Brunner complex.
"This is pretty awesome,'' said Stewart, a former Sterling High School prep. "To make history like that is one of the best things we could do. I'm so proud of everybody on the team – it's been a huge team effort.''
It sure was Saturday as the Vikings (27-10, 15-6 CCIW) erupted for 35 hits in just 12-plus offensive innings of work. The top seven batters in the Viking order were a combined 28 of 54 with 23 runs scored and 24 RBIs.
Stewart led the barrage in Game 1 as he was 3-for-5 with with six RBIs and two runs scored. He added a 1-for-3 nightcap effort with an RBI and run scored. Leadoff man Van Duyne set the table, going 6-for-9 with five runs and three RBIs and had six plate appearances in Augie's seven at-bats in the opening game. Tenerelli was 5-for-8 with three runs scored and five RBIs from the five hole.
"We had a better approach at the plate and putting balls in play and not striking out too much,'' said Van Duyne, who had a triple in the nightcap. "When we got guys on, we got them in, which is a big key.''
Also key was bouncing back from a close call on Friday in the opener of the three-game set. The Vikings struggled but managed a 5-4 victory that set the table for today's twin-killing and the sweep.
The day, though, got off to an inauspicious start for the hosts. First-game starting pitcher Chris Sauer (6-1) was touched for two runs in the top of the first.
"They bounced back from being down early and put some runs on the board,'' said Augie coach Greg Wallace, whose club responded with six first-inning runs in the opener. "After that, it kind of set the tone for the rest of the day as far as being who we are offensively. And we pitched it pretty well for the most part.''
The regular-season championship earned the Vikings the right to host this week's CCIW Tournament. The four-team gathering begins Thursday with second-seeded Illinois Wesleyan (21-16, 14-7 CCIW) taking on third-seeded North Park (23-15, 13-8 CCIW) and the Vikings taking on fourth-place North Central (24-13, 12-9) in the start of the double-elimination event at Swanson/Brunner.
To say the least, the Vikings will carry plenty of momentum into the postseason.
"We definitely want to accomplish more,'' said Van Duyne. "This is not the last stop.''