Orcas Vikings are league champs at last

by Jefferson Freeman

Orcas High School senior

After 28 years of waiting, the Orcas Vikings are league champions. It was a busy final week of the regular season with the Vikings needing to finish 3-0 to own a share of the league title. It started with an April 30 visit to Concrete where the Vikings looked to finish a series sweep of the Lions.

After a slow first inning started the game 0-0, the Vikings took control and put up 10 runs over three innings as the game would end 10-0 in the fifth. A combination effort from the Vikings saw four pitchers over five innings as the group struck out a total of 12 batters. Hayden Shaefer picked up the win on the stat sheet as he struck out 6 of 7 Concrete batters that he faced.

On the offensive end, it was the usual suspects for the Vikings. Shaefer went 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs. Moose Kinsey and Eddie Cunningham went 2-for-3 as those two combined for four runs and three RBIs.

After a long trip to Concrete and back the Vikings faced off with the La Conner Braves. After many delays, the Vikings finally celebrated their senior day, with seven players honored for their determination and success with Orcas Island baseball. Cunningham, Charles Hill, Jefferson Freeman, Kinsey, Orion Meskew, Jaylen Tijo and Hayden Shaefer were all honored before the game.

Despite the pregame festivities, and larger than normal crowd, the Vikings got off on the wrong foot. La Conner got a surprising 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning and backed it up on defense. The second inning would go by scoreless and in the top of the third the Braves would extend their lead to 3-0 in surprising fashion. The third and fourth innings would pass b and the Viking bats could not string anything together.

Life finally came in the bottom of the fifth, with back against the wall senior Meskew’s one-out base hit followed by Andrew Ross wearing a pitch, turned the order over for the Vikings with runners in scoring position. Calder Jones would ground into a fielder choice at third and just as quickly as it started the Vikings seemed to be losing their breath. Joe Stephens would step up in one of the biggest moments of the season and fit a flare into right field, with runners going on contact, the balling avoiding the defender’s glove meant two runs would score and Orcas was back into the game. Cunningham stepped up to the plate and walked to first, then Shaefer walked up to the plate with the tying run ready to score. Shaefer got his pitch and ripped it as Stephens crossed the plate to tie the ball game for the first time since the top of the first. Freeman would walk and set up a bases-loaded, 2-out setup for Kinsey who waited and delivered a laser into right field. All three runners reached home safely and Kinsey’s triple finished the inning with a 6-3 Viking lead.

It was a whole new game from then on. The Vikings would add one more run thanks to Meskew and Jones and the Vikings would bring Cunningham in to finish the game off on the mound.

It was quite the day at Buck Park as Jones and Kinsey led the way for the Vikings. Along with his day at the plate, Jones entered to pitch in long relief and threw an impressive 3.2 scoreless innings with six strikeouts.

After the gut-wrenching win at home, it was back on the bus for the Vikings, this time heading to Darrington. A win on the road would secure a share of the league title for the first time in 28 years for Orcas Island. Even with that reward on the line the game got off to a 1-1 start. However, after that, it was lights out. Orcas would add four runs in the second, and the game would be relatively quiet until the seventh when Orcas put up five more to finish the game off 12-1.

Stephens, Kinsey and Cunningham each pitched, combining for 10 strikeouts among the three of them. Offensive production came from every part of the lineup, but Kinsey’s four hits and Cunningham’s three stood out on the stat sheet as the Vikings made history.

With the league title behind them, the Vikings had more work to do in their path to making history. The district tournament started with Pope John Paul II High School visiting Orcas Island on Saturday, May 4.

It was a perfect start to payoff action for the Vikings. Stephens started and retired three consecutive batters to give the Vikings an opportunity for an early lead. Jones led off with a walk, and a back-pick attempt from the Pope John Paul catcher would end up in foul territory in right. Thanks to a shifted outfield from the Eagles, Jones would race around the bases to give the Vikings a surprising 1-0 lead. Stephens would reach on a base hit and receive a steal sign as Cunningham would rope a ball over the head of the center fielder, who in an attempt to play the ball crashed over the fence allowing Stephens to score easily and Cunningham to circle the bases for an inside the park home run. Three batters and three runs had the Vikings well on their way.

While the rest of the game wouldn’t be as dramatic, it would look similar. The game would end up 11-0 after five innings as the Vikings run ruled Pope John Paul to keep their season alive.

Stephens and Jones both went 3-for-3 at the plate and combined five runs and five RBIs. Stephens started off the mound for an inning before Jones came in for the next three and Moose Kinsey finished the game off.

After that win the Vikings will play host once more, this time with Rainier Christian coming to town as the two teams will battle for a spot in the district championship, and in the state tournament.