Incredible season for Vikings baseball team

by Jefferson Freeman

Orcas High School senior

What a run it was for the Orcas Island Vikings.

The 2024 Vikings became the first team in program history to win the league and district championship and won a state tournament game for the first time in over a decade.

The first game of the state tournament provided some intense action as the Vikings hosted the Pomeroy Pirates. Calder Jones started off the bump for the Vikings but it got scary early. Jones threw four pitches before the Pirates’ lead-off hitter hit a ball to left field, one hopping the wall for a ground rule double. Jones would maintain composure and get the next two outs, but a base hit into shallow right would give Pomeroy an early lead.

Jones would lead off for the Vikings and get something going early as his lead-off hit would help set up runners at the corners with no outs. On a passed ball Jones would head for home and on a bang-bang play the call on the field was out and that would be it for the Vikings.

After an exciting first inning, things slowed down for both sides. Calder Jones had a lot to do with that as he would strike out six batters and pick off a runner in the next three frames. Orcas would finally show an offensive spark when a two-out Moose Kinsey base hit slipped past the right fielder to get Kinsey to third. Jefferson Freeman would get hit by a pitch and on a pickoff attempt from the pitcher would look to draw a pickle to score Kinsey, but the Pirates made the tag in time and they escaped the inning still unscathed.

Jones would return to business over the next two innings, striking out 5 of the 7 batters he faced in the fifth and sixth innings. On offense, the fifth proved rather futile, but with Jones getting a shot to lead off the inning a big base hit gave the Vikings life. Joe Stephens’ base hit would get Jones into scoring position, and with one out in the inning, Hayden Shaefer would hit the tying run in for the Vikings. The pirates were lucky and managed to get out of the inning without sustaining any more damage, but the momentum was changed.

The 7-8-9 hitters for both teams would lead off the seventh inning. Between the six players, they had reached base twice all game, getting picked off on one of those occasions. But that is who it would come down to.

Jones picked up the ball in the seventh and went right back to work. Striking out the first batter, the second batter, and the third batter to sit the Pirates down and make it Orcas’ game to win.

Orion Meskew led off the bottom of the seventh, going down 0-2 on the first two pitches before battling his way to a full count. With the game on the line, Meskew watched the next pitch and walked down the line to first base. Andrew Ross would follow it up with an impressive walk of his own to move the winning run into scoring position. Meskew would get the steal sign and take third, meaning anything out of the infield would give the Vikings a shot to win the game.

Who else should step up in that moment than Jones? With the Pomeroy infield pushed in, Jones hit a chopper between third and shortstop. Neither defender could get to the ball, and just like that, the Vikings had won.

Jones was dominant that evening. His 15Ks kept the Vikings around for the entire game while on offense he had half of the team’s runs and RBIs.

After an emotional rollercoaster of a win the Vikings had a road trip in front of them. Heading down to South Bend, Washington where they would take on the defending State Champion Naselle Comets.

As the away team in this one, the Vikings would get first bats and take advantage. Jones would lead things off with a double into the left-center gap. With Jones in scoring position, the inning would get down to two outs before Shaefer knocked one over the infield to put the Vikings up by a run.

Stephens would make his long-awaited return to the bump and shut down the Comets in the first two innings striking out 4 batters.

After stranding a runner on third in the second, a two-out base hit and steal by Eddie Cunningham would bring Shaefer back to the plate for the Vikings. Shaefer would do his thing again as Cunningham scored to make it 2-0 Vikings.

After a great early start, things would start to catch up with the Vikings. A series of third-inning errors allowed Naselle’s offense to produce four runs despite Stephens striking out two. Down 4-2, the Vikings got a lead-off base hit from Jefferson Freeman. Pushed over to second Freeman would score on an infield base hit/error by Andrew Ross to give the Vikings life again. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Naselle would answer with a run of their own, and despite the best efforts from the top of the order, no serious threats would be produced. The Comets would add another run in the final inning as the Vikings continued to struggle to get runners aboard. The Orcas Island Vikings season would end with a 6-3 loss to Naselle.

Both Stephens and Jones would pitch good efforts. Stephens struck out 6 while Jones had 4. On offense, Shaefer led the team with 2 RBIs. The three runs came from Jones, Cunningham and Jefferson Freeman.

While it wasn’t the final game they had hoped for, this Viking team had been one of the best in program history.