The Northgate Vikings baseball team’s five-run rally in the third inning helped the home team defeat the Douglas County Tigers 13-3 Wednesday evening in Region 5-AAAAAA action at NGHS on Senior Night.
With the big win, the Vikings improve to 14-14 overall and 10-5 in the region. They clinch the third seed in the region for the upcoming state baseball playoffs due to their two-game sweep over fourth-place region foe Creekside (13-11, 9-6). They will play all of their state games on the road, unless a fourth-seeded team pulls an upset.
Northgate’s final regular-season game is at Douglas County High at 5:55 p.m. Friday.
“Our coaches always tell us that it’s the seniors’ year every year, so I’m glad we won on Senior Night,” said junior infielder Chase Bevil. “We now have made the playoffs, so that means our seniors get to play in the postseason next week. That’s a great thing.”
Northgate head coach Todd Herrington said he was pleased with his team’s play these last few weeks. The Vikings have won eight of their last 10 games to go from 6-12 overall to the playoffs.
“This means a lot for us to grab a state-playoff berth. Our backs were against the wall earlier this season and we had to fight our way in, but now we’re in,” said Herrington. “I’m proud of how the guys didn’t give up when we were losing. That’s a testament to their character.”
The Vikings had to show that character against Douglas County Wednesday. The Tigers roughed up Northgate senior pitcher Nick Kempf for three runs in the first inning, but the Vikings scored twice in the bottom of the first to cut the lead to 3-2.
Northgate broke the game open in the third. Noah Ratliff’s sharp grounder was booted for an error, and that scored Christian Dyer from second to tie the game at 3-all. Noah Aaron then singled home Ratliff to give the Vikes the lead for good at 4-3. The big blow in the inning was a two-run single by Northgate senior Patrick Pitzer, who later scored in the inning off a wild pitch for the 7-3 lead.
The game was just about over after that. Kempf regained his winning form on the mound, and senior pitcher David Gardner also held the Tigers scoreless in the next two innings.
Myles Anthony replaced Parker Ball on the mound for Douglas County in the top of the fifth, and the Vikings scored five runs to take a 12-3. Herrington put in senior Wes Mortimer as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded, and Mortimer came through in his final home at-bat, hitting a drive to short center field for the game-winner and the 13-3 win. Mortimer’s jubilant teammates chased him down and doused him with the water bucket before shaking hands with the Tigers.
“I was warming up in the fifth inning, but I saw we were scoring runs and I thought I wouldn’t get a chance to pitch,” Mortimer said. “At least I got a chance to hit. It felt really good to get a walk-off hit in my final at-bat at home on Senior Night.”
Pitzer said it felt weird to play his final game at home.
“I can’t believe Senior Night is here. It all went by way too fast,” Pitzer said. “It’s always good to get a win, but a win on Senior Night is even better.”