The bottom of the lineup rarely gets the glory, but Wednesday’s unexpected win goes out to the unsung heroes of the Vikings’ bench and the seven, eight, nine spots.
Trailing 8-5 in the bottom of the seventh, South Tahoe was looking for a spark and a few unexpected guys started the fire. The Tahoe’s bench and bottom of the lineup stepped up Wednesday for a come-from-behind 8-7 non-league win against Portola in the bottom of the seventh.
Sure the contributed, like Dominic Diana who sliced in the first run of the seventh-inning rally with a line to right. But it was Mike Guili who tied it at 8-8 with an RBI single to right-center. And it was the Vikings’ No. 8 batter, RJ Rivera, who laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to bring in the winning run.
“It only takes one guy to really light a fire, and we actually had a couple guys who did that don’t normally play,” coach Starbuck Teevan said.
Guili, Rivera and Aaron Pfister were those guys. They kept the Vikings alive from the bottom of the order. Their performance helped erase some early mistakes that allowed Portola to hold the lead through the majority of the game.
“Making so many mistakes we definitely had our heads down, but the kids showed a lot of grit,” Teevan said.
Those defensive mistakes and a few base running miscues made it a tougher outing than necessary for starting pitcher Cody Higgins, who was throwing plenty of nasty off-speed strikes.
Higgins kept Portola in check for the first two innings, picking off the leadoff hit he gave up in the first inning.
He then helped his own cause in the second by beating out the throw for a single, and Liam Loftis sac flied him home. It giave the Vikings a brief 1-0 lead.
A walk and fielding miscue, however, opened the third inning and the door for Portola to put up three runs. By the fifth, the purple Tigers had extended that lead to 5-1.
The Vikings hung on. A Portola error and sacrifice fly from Sergio Burgueno made it a two-run ballgame, but Portola once again lengthened its lead in the sixth, this time to 8-3.
But the Vikings kept chipping.
Guili knocked in Diana in the sixth and then came home on an error, chopping the lead back to three and setting the stage for the Vikings’ seventh-inning rally that would prove fatal for Portola.
“Our team has a lot of fight, and we’ve come back like this before,” said catcher Christian Coats who was a rock behind home plate for the Vikings. “We just stayed loud and supported each other.”
UP NEXT: The Vikings will travel to North Tahoe for a doubleheader on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. before playing Truckee at the Aces Ballpark on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in what will likely determine playoffs.