All things considered, the Lawrence University baseball team has a lot to be excited about. The Vikings split a four game series with the Ripon College Red Hawks two games to two, winning one of the doubleheaders on April 5 and 7.
“Lawrence University hasn’t beaten Ripon more than once in a series since the 2000 season,” noted Head Coach Jason Anderson. “However, it is disappointing that we could not finish the series and win the last game.”
The defending conference champions, the Red Hawks, took the first game of the series on Friday 18-5. The Vikings were in the game until the top of the fifth inning when Ripon scored six runs on six hits. After that, it was all Ripon, marking 16 hits backed by the stellar pitching of Steven Blader, who pitched eight full innings and struck out seven.
In the nightcap, the Vikings were saved in the bottom of the ninth by senior Eric Bohling’s heroics. With juniors Gabe Henriques and Davide Harris on second and third, Bohling doubled into the gap in right center to win the game 5-4. “It felt pretty fantastic,” he said, ” but I would have to give recognition to my teammates for getting into the position for me to hit them in.”
Bohling had a pretty stellar night overall, going four for five and batting in four of the team’s five runs. Another key factor to the Vikings’ success was their strong pitching which kept the explosive Ripon offense at bay. The win went to junior Alex Brewer, who faced the last two batters in the ninth, but freshman Kelton Jenkins pitched seven strong innings surrendering only four runs over seven hits.
In the first game on Saturday, the Vikings won a hard fought battle behind the bats of freshman Joel Birch, Harris and Henriques, who each connected for two hits and combined for seven RBIs. The final score was 8-7.
The Viking’s bullpen again secured the victory surrendering only one run over four and two thirds innings. The win went to freshman Philip Clark, who battled through a tough fifth inning en route to the victory. Brewer recorded his first save of the season after striking out the final hitter of the game.
In the final game of the series, the Vikings were in it throughout the entire game until the top of the eighth inning. Ripon had opened up a four run lead in the first, but Lawrence battled back to tie the game at five in the third inning. Ripon put two more runs on the board in the fifth, but Harris responded in the sixth inning with an RBI double to tie the game back up.
The Red Hawks then exploded for seven runs on seven hits in the eighth inning. Clark was pegged with the loss, but the bullpen in total suffered a barrage, giving up nine runs. “We were in the game at the end but could not hold on,” remarked Anderson, “We have to stop walking people and making errors and we will not get beat by so many runs.”
Overall, it was a pretty good weekend for the Vikings that put them at 2-2 in conference play. “Our number one goal is to make the conference tournament,” said Bohling, “then win it to make a trip to the college world series.” Anderson noted that the defeats “weren’t crushing, so much as our mistakes were exposed by a very good hitting team.” He went on to say, “The reality of baseball is that when teams lose they generally beat themselves. I am not convinced that Ripon beat us twice, we beat ourselves twice.”
The Vikings are at Finlandia this weekend, and then come back home for a conference battle against Beloit College next weekend. “Our focus is to get better at what we do and be mentally ready to go for each game,” noted Anderson. “We’d like to be on a good roll when we play Beloit next week.”