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March 20, 2010

2010 Season - Comeback keeps 24th ranked Vikings unbeaten

Held to just three hits through the first four innings against Fontbonne starter David Willey, Augustana erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the fifth and went on to post an 11-8 non-conference baseball victory on Saturday, March 20. The game, which was played at Chain-o-Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida, was the third of a four game mini-spring trip for the Vikings.

Augustana, ranked 24th in the latest NCAA Division III poll, improved to 10-0 on the season while Fontbonne, an NCAA Division III tournament participant last year, fell to 4-8. This one was not without its scary moments, however, as the Vikings fell behind 4-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. Willey, a lefty, had allowed just three hits to that point and the Griffins knocked Augustana starter Jared McIntosh (Davenport Assumption HS, Davenport, Iowa) out of the game in the top of the fifth.

Sophomore John Peters (Rock Island Alleman HS, Milan, Ill.) got out of the fifth despite the fact that the Viking defense made errors on balls hit by the first two batters he faced. With one out, he induced Fontbonne rightfielder Kyle Ketcherside to lift a fly ball to Augustana rightfielder Mike Lamb (Ottawa HS, Ottawa, Ill.). Lamb made the catch and his throw to the plate nailed Jason Nikolaisen trying to score with the third out. That kept the score at 4-0 and set the Vikings up for a big fifth inning.

Augustana finally roughed up Willey in the fifth, scoring a total of seven runs on seven hits and one costly Griffin error. Junior catcher T.J. O’Donnell (New Trier HS, Northbrook, Ill.), who had applied the tag on Nikolaisen on Lamb’s throw to end the top of the inning, got things started with a triple to right center field. He scored on a one out single to right off the bat of sophomore second baseman Joe Moran (Niles Notre Dame HS, Chicago, Ill.). Consecutive singles by sophomore centerfielder Mike Barker (Grandview HS, Centennial, Colo. – now resides in Marina del Mar, Calif.), sophomore leftfielder Kevin Serna (Rolling Meadows HS, Arlington Heights, Ill.), freshman shortstop Kurt Schmidt (Grayslake Central HS, Grayslake, Ill.) and junior third baseman Dave Hoffman (Cary Grove HS, Fox River Grove, Ill.) left the bases loaded with three runs in. That all changed with one swing of the bat as freshman first baseman Tyler Wilson (Valparaiso HS, Valparaiso, Ind.) ripped a single to left that drove in Serna and Schmidt to give Augustana the lead 5-4. The ball skipped past the Fontbonne leftfielder for an error and Hoffman and Wilson circled the bases to make it 7-4.

Peters stayed in control of the game from that point, eventually working 2 2/3 innings and giving up just one unearned run. He was credited with the victory, the first of his season and his collegiate career.

The Vikings scored three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh and weathered a three run Fontbonne outburst in the eighth. Sophomore Joe Ufheil (Niles Notre Dame HS, Chicago, Ill.) came on in the ninth and was superb in setting down the Griffins in order to secure the victory.

Augustana survived an uncharacteristic four error performance from its defense but stayed unbeaten thanks to an offense that banged out 16 hits, 12 of them over the final four innings. The top four hitters in the lineup: Serna, Schmidt, Hoffman and Wilson, were a combined nine for 18 with four runs scored and seven RBI. Hoffman was the hits leader for the game with three while Serna, Schmidt, Wilson, O’Donnell, Moran and Barker all had two apiece.

The Vikings will play Wisconsin-Stout at 9:30 on Sunday, March 21 at Chain-o-Lakes Field to round out the trip. They are scheduled to host Monmouth on Wednesday, March 24 at 5:00 p.m. at Swanson Stadium/Brunner Field to begin the home season.