By ERIC BENAC
News Sports Writer
The Alpena baseball team (15-2, 9-1 Big North) needed a big win against Cadillac on Tuesday to set themselves up for a chance to take the Big North Conference title next Tuesday against Traverse City West.
News photo by Eric Benac
Alpena’s Giulio Fantasia rounds third base in the first game of a doubleheader against Cadillac. The Wildcats swept Cadillac 10-1 and 12-3 and now have the chance to win the Big North title on Tuesday against Traverse City West.
Earning 10-1 and 12-3 victories over the Vikings helped give the Wildcats that shot.
"We knew we had to come in and take out Cadillac. We didn't know much about them, but the kids really did their job tonight," Alpena coach Phil Schultz said.
Especially prominent in the second game was Tim Atkinson, who as a pitcher gave up only two hits and struck out nine hitters and as a batter hit back-to-back three-run homers in the fourth and fifth innings that blew the game wide open for Alpena.
"It's really good having a game like that as a batter, especially when I'm pitching. I really helped my cause out there," Atkinson said.
Atkinson's home runs gave him four on the year.
"That's the second time Tim's hit two back to back homers for us and he always seems to hit them right when we need it," Schultz said.
Before the fourth inning, the game was tied 3-3 after Alpena staged a come from behind third inning that saw Giulio Fantasia and Dylan Glennie come up with RBI hits.
Atkinson also knocked in Tyler Pintar in the first inning.
The damage had been done after Atkinson's homers and Cadillac wasn't able to fight back.
Cadillac's early runs had come off walks and errors from Atkinson who needed some time to settle into his pitching groove.
Especially problematic was the second inning that saw the bases loaded when a bloop hit by Tanner Derror caused some confusion on the field. The ball didn't get where it needed to go and two runs scored although Fantasia was able to tag out Keenan Cooper to slow down the Vikings.
After Atkinson settled down, Cadillac couldn't buy a hit. The Vikings went hitless for the rest of the game, giving up only saw pop-ups and flies as well as three throws from second baseman Mitch Skiba to first baseman Jay Dutcher. The Alpena outfield had a relatively easy time in the second game as only one ball made its way that deep.
Alpena had a few chances in the fifth and sixth to end the game early, but couldn't quite get that last run for a mercy win.
If Atkinson was the uncontested star of the second game, Mitch Skiba was the first game's star. As a pitcher, he struck out seven, gave up only three walks, one run and three hits.
Fantasia had four hits, including a double and two RBIs. Dylan Hoes picked up a triple and scored on a passed ball. Zach Nash was able to get on base in all four of his at-bats and had two singles, a walk and was hit by a pitch. Brady Marwede picked up a double and a single and drove in a run on a sac fly.
Errors haunted the Vikings throughout the day: they picked up three in the first game and five in the second. Errors helped Atkinson get on base in the first game after otherwise striking out three times. Glennie got on base from an error and Pintar got on base twice.
Each of these batters were then driven in later for a run.
Solid pitching helped the Wildcats tune-up for tournament play in Escanaba this weekend.
"Mitch and I pitched really good tonight. We are playing in the Escanaba Invitational on Saturday and we've won that the last two years so that should be some great practice for our game against Traverse City West," Atkinson said.
Alpena travels to Escanaba on Friday for a warm-up doubleheader before the Invitational on Saturday.