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Vikings win extra-innings marathon on Senior Day

CELEBRATION: Senior catcher Keegan Bartrom yells in celebration with his teammates after hitting a two-run home run during the Vikings’ 4–3 extra-innings Senior Day victory on Tuesday.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The Huntington North baseball team scored a thrilling 4–3 Northeast 8 Conference (NE8) extra-innings victory over New Haven on Senior Day. The win improved the Vikings’ season record to 9–11 and evened their NE8 record at 3–3.

Prior to the contest, Huntington North honored the seven seniors on the roster—Mason Anderson, Keegan Bartrom, Levi Bennett, Zach Daugherty, Nathan Hall, Brett Kaylor and Trey Williams—as well as their two radio broadcasters who are also seniors this year. The celebration was capped by having each of the seven players throw a ceremonial first pitch to their fathers, a fitting way to thank the fathers for supporting their sons’ baseball careers.

The Vikings’ defense and Anderson got off to a solid start, retiring the Bulldogs one-two-three in the top of the first.

Despite starting the bottom of the first with two quick outs, Huntington North’s offense went to work, as Williams doubled to deep center field before a two-run bomb by Bartrom—his fourth of the season—gave the Vikings an early 2–0 lead.

“Keegan has a great plan at the plate right now and has learned to trust in that plan,” said head coach Jarod Hammel. “Aside from being one of our best situational hitters, he is dynamic enough to be able to attack the defense in a variety of ways, and in a variety of counts.”

New Haven got a run back in the top of the third on an RBI single by Angel DiFederico to score Trevor Reed, cutting the Huntington North lead in half at 2–1.

The Bulldogs repeated the scoring play nearly to a tee in the fourth inning, though this time it was Reed dropping in the RBI single to plate Augie DiFederico to tie the game at 2–2.

Both defenses settled in the rest of the way, as neither the Vikings nor New Haven could score another run through the rest of regulation play, sending the game to extra innings knotted up at 2–2.

The Bulldogs took their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth inning, as Augie singled to bring home Angel for a 3–2 New Haven advantage.

However, Huntington North was not ready to give up the game. Anderson opened the bottom of the eighth with a leadoff double down the left field line and moved to third on a groundout in the ensuing at-bat. In the next-at bat, Williams leveled the score once more, bringing in Anderson with a sacrifice fly to knot the contest back up at 3–3.

Neither team crossed the plate in the ninth, sending the game to the 10th inning. The Bulldogs threatened in the top of the 10th, but the Vikings got out of the jam unscathed with a double play to send the contest to the bottom of the 10th.

Following a single, walk, fielder’s choice and hit-by-pitch, Huntington North had the bases loaded and a chance for a walk-off win with Bartrom at the dish.

Bartrom did just that, sending a sacrifice fly to left field, plating Anderson for a thrilling 4–3 walk-off Senior Day victory in 10 innings.

“When you play in a 10 inning game, it’s all about grinding it out as a team,” Hammel said. “Our guys off the bench were great tonight. Mason, Trey and Zach were warriors on the mound—I am so proud of them. Offensively, we missed some opportunities, but we turned them into good conversations. This was a gritty team win and one that we can hang our hat on down the stretch.”

Anderson threw the first five and one-third innings for the Vikings, allowing four hits and two runs, though one was unearned. Anderson fanned seven New Haven batters in the start.

Williams came on in relief and tossed four innings, giving up three hits and one earned run while striking out one Bulldog.

Daugherty rounded out the pitching efforts with two-thirds of an inning, needing just three pitches to record the two outs.

“In a night like tonight, the game hinges on each pitch,” Hammel said. “It was good for our kids to have that feeling, and even better for us to be successful. … Our seniors have been patient teachers who lead by example. Tonight’s gritty win defined them well.”

Huntington North is scheduled to return to the field on Thursday for another NE8 duel, this time a road game against DeKalb. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.