Vikings baseball battle into first place

by Jefferson Freeman

Orcas High School senior

What a stretch it’s been for the Orcas Island Vikings.

Over the last two weeks, the Vikings have put themselves in a historic position. The team has played four games, won three and picked up a forfeit victory as they set themselves up to do something that no Vikings team has done in 30 years.

The first game of the stretch was a home matchup with the Concrete Lions. The Vikings got out on top early as they went up early. It was 10-0 after just one inning of baseball, thanks in part to a grand slam from Viking slugger Eddie Cunnigham. That homerun would be Cunningham’s second of the season and gave him four of the five RBIs he would have that day. It was pretty quiet after the first inning as both teams added two runs each and the game finished 12-2 after four and a half innings.

There was a lot of output up and down the lineup from the Vikings. Cunningham’s grand slam was the highlight and was helped out by Jefferson Freeman going 3-for-3 at the plate, and four other Vikings hitting .500 or better on the day to put plenty of runs across the plate.

Four Vikings shared the five innings with Charles Hill throwing the most (2). Hill had five of the combined 11 strikeouts for the Vikings. Hayden Shaefer picked up the start and the win as the Vikings looked hot in time for one of the biggest games of the year against Mount Vernon Christian.

The Vikings and Hurricanes entered the game in a three-way tie for first place in the league. The Hurricanes had won a banner last season, a feat that the Vikings haven’t accomplished since 1996. With the game in Eastsound, the Vikings would have the help of their home crowd as they had an opportunity to control their destiny.

Shaefer got the start for Orcas Island and was on his A game from the first pitch. The first batter of the game got caught watching a breaking ball, and that would be a sign of things to come for MVC.

It was a grueling battle of aces as both Orcas and MVC got runners into scoring position early, but ended the innings with nothing to show. The Vikings stranded runners on third in the 2nd, 4th and 5th innings while the Hurricanes left them waiting on second and third in the second.

It was zeros all around until the sixth inning when the Vikings finally woke their bats up. Joe Stephens led the inning off with a walk, which was followed up by a Cunningham base hit to set up runners on the corners. Shaefer would step up to the plate and turn his great day off the hill into a great day in the box. He ripped a base hit to score the first run of the game as Stephens crossed to make it 1-0 Vikings.

Moose Kinsey was next in line and with runners on second and third, Kinsey roped a ball into right field. Cunningham would score standing and a throw to the plate was way off-line to allow Shaefer in safe. The Vikings had erupted for three runs out of nowhere.

With a lead going into the final inning, Shaefer had an opportunity to put a cherry on top of his dominant outing. Boy did he do that. Three MVC batters became strikeouts number nine, ten, and eleven for the Vikings pitcher as he was almost flawless on the day. With the thrilling 3-0 win, the Vikings took sole possession of first place in the league. But their week was far from over.

The next game was home against Friday Harbor. A team that the Vikings had beaten handily in the last meeting, this one was much different. The Vikings got an early run from Stephens on an overthrow at third base, but what looked to be an ideal start for the Vikings soon fizzled out.

It would look a lot like the previous game as both teams got runners on but could not bring any runs across. A “pitchers zone” didn’t help the case for either offense as both teams struggled with strikeouts.

The fourth inning would be a defining scene as the Wolverines finally strung together some hard-hit balls that led to two runs crossing the plate and an unexpected 2-1 lead. With opportunities slipping away, Hill reached base and turned a ball off the bat of Calder Jones into the tying run. With things locked at 2-2, both teams saw an inning go by and no change to the score. Friday Harbor failed to add runs in the sixth and the game was entering its final frames.

The sixth inning of play was led off by Jefferson Freeman who dropped down a bunt to reach first base. Freeman was able to advance on a steal and with a runner in scoring position, Taylor Lyons put one in play. The Wolverines would look to turn a double play with outs available around the infield. They got the first out at second but with an overthrow at first base, and Freeman breaking off of second base, the Vikings had the third and final run of the afternoon.

A 3-2 win in grueling fashion was enough to keep the Vikings atop the league and beat Friday Harbor at home for the first time since 2017.

The following day would be a long drive to Granite Falls, and the Vikings looked discombobulated from the jump. An 11-run second inning would put the game to bed early as the Vikings fell to Granite Falls 17-4.

With just two weeks remaining in the season, the Vikings have a big week left. Two league games, away at Coupeville on Tuesday and home against La Conner are followed by a Saturday special against 4A Mariner High School for the senior game.

by Cienna Richardson

Orcas High School student

Orcas Island’s Lady Vikings played Concrete again on April 12. The game was never officially finished because Concrete’s pitcher hurt her knee. The final score was 27-17 counting as a win for Orcas.

“The game against concrete was definitely challenging at first but we had so much fun,” said senior Valeria Villarreal.

The Vikings went on to play Darrington on April 13, ending with a score of 4-17.

“The Darrington game was by far one of the best games we’ve played. Our team played really well together and had such good positivity throughout the entire game. I play third base and while I was out in the field I saw how everyone wanted that ball just as much as I did,” said senior Ada Quintero.

Following Darrington, the Vikings played Friday Harbor, their notorious nemesis and harsh competitor.

Senior Milana Schneider said, “Although we lost, our team pushed through and kept our heads up, which is all we can do in that time. I don’t believe in ‘losing,’ I believe when you lose a game, it is a game of experience. Friday Harbor is a good team, they have amazing sports programs. We tried our best, and that’s all that matters in my opinion. I’m glad to be on this team and to be a leader.”

The next home games are April 25 at 4 p.m. versus La Conner and April 27 at 1 p.m. versus Mariner.

“Over the last few weeks, the team has shown great improvement across the board and seems to be meshing well on the field. We have had a few ups and downs, but my hope for the rest of the season is that the team builds off of the foundation they have created and continues to work together as a group to be successful in games,” said Lady Vikings coach Lilly Rodgers.

On Saturday, April 6, the Orcas Island high school track team traveled  to Bellingham for the 37 team Solberg invitational. The team competed well and showed great improvement over last year with several athletes winning their heats. The highlight of the meet was Bethany Carter‘s 127‘ 6“ throw in the discus, which was good enough to beat the defending champion and take first place.

On Wednesday, April 10 the team held an inner squad meet on the island. The competition resulted in many personal records, and school records. In addition, several members of the baseball team enthusiastically participated in some of the races.

Winning performances were Elijah Griffith in the 800. Remy Lago in the long jump and javelin. Forest Frausto In the triple jump, Andrew Garcia in the 100, Ethan Moss in the 400, Soli Halabisky In the 200 and Sophia Mahony-Jauregui in the javelin. In the final event, Ethan Mass, Lago, Lauro Quintero–Carrion and Andrew Garcia teamed up for the winning 4×100 relay.