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Baseball: Nazareth conquers Vikings for sectional crown

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

With many players back from a team that finished third in the state in Class 3A last season, senior outfielder Angelo Luna knew the Vikings were ready to win many games this year.

The recipe for success, according to Luna, was simple.

“We just practice a lot, trust in that and stay with our approaches,” he said. “It’s just trusting in each other, loving each other, being there for each other. That is the key for us to keep this going.”

The top-seeded Vikings rolled to a 10-4 win over fourth-seeded Marist in a Class 3A St. Laurence Sectional semifinal on June 1.

Unfortunately for St. Laurence (30-9), the victory would be its final one of the season.

The Vikings were stymied by second-seeded Nazareth (31-7) in the sectional championship game on June 4, falling 6-0.

St. Laurence was held to four hits. John Hughes threw five shutout innings for the Roadrunners.

Luna, Martin, Johnny Wendling and Jake Merda had the hits for the Vikings, all singles.

After giving up three runs in the first inning, St. Laurence starter DJ Helwig settled down to go four innings, allowing four runs. Ryan Carroll threw 1 ½ innings of scoreless relief, striking out four.

In the win over Marist, the Vikings’ offense was clicking. Junior Luke Stulga led the way, homering twice and driving in four runs. Luna went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs while Jameson Martin had a double and a sacrifice fly.

“I felt like I was able to spark the team with that first (home run),” Stulga said. “Then everyone got going and my teammates had big hits, too. It was a good day for us.”

For Marist (19-18), Nate Voss went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs, while George Bilecki, Jack Wade, Quinn Duffy and Justin Lang each had an RBI single.

Leading off the second inning, Stulga was able to get around on an outside pitch and pull it over the wall in left-center field to tie the game 1-1.

Stulga said the Vikings had a good idea of how Marist pitchers would attack them after the teams’ regular-season meeting on April 29, which the RedHawks won, 3-2.

“We played them earlier in the year and we saw that they tried to go outside on almost every batter,” Stulga said. “I was sitting outside half, and when you get an offspeed pitch like that your barrel is going to catch it out in front.

“That first one, I knew right away it was gone. The second one was a little shorter, so I wasn’t 100 percent certain, but they both felt good off the bat and I was pretty sure the second one was gone, too.”

Stulga’s second homer was a three-run blast that capped a five-run fourth inning for the Vikings and gave them a 9-1 lead.

“I’m super proud of Luke because he’s worked really hard on his approach and not getting himself out,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus said. “He has tons of ability but there are times when he’s too aggressive and he’s out in front of everything.”

Freshman Joe Olson started on the mound for St. Laurence and allowed just one run in 3 2/3 innings.

Marist scored in the top of the first, taking advantage of an Olson error, a walk and a hit by pitch. But Olson got an inning-ending double play to limit the damage.

“We were pretty confident that Joe would be able to handle this, but you never know,” Lotus said. “It’s a freshman in a sectional semifinal and how will they respond? I was super impressed with him.”

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