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BASEBALL: WL Central roars back to knock off rival WL Northern, remain in driver's seat for city crown

   | Jeff Dullack

BASEBALL: WL Central roars back to knock off rival WL Northern, remain in driver's seat for city crown

COMMERCE – Throughout much of this season, Walled Lake Central has built a reputation of a team able to produce late in games.
 
And on Wednesday afternoon that was again the case when the Vikings visited cross-town rival Walled Lake Northern and rallied for the victory. Facing a 5-2 deficit in the top of the seventh inning, Central struck late, plating four runs to pick up a crucial 6-5 win over the Knights and stay the frontrunner in the race for the city title.
 
Central head coach Mike Roffi believes that his team’s patience and ability to wait for its pitch has played a big role in wearing down pitchers and allowing the Vikings to have some of their late-inning success.
 
“We work on that in practice, hitting our pitch and being aggressive and when you see that pitch, you lock and load on it,” he said. “It’s something that we work on in practice every day and these kids have bought into it. We worked five and a half months in the offseason just on hitting and I know this year, it’s paid off because of that.”
 
Down three heading into the affair's final frame, the Vikings (20-4) began cutting into the deficit. Things got started when George Pastor laced a single to left to bring home Mike Morilli and make it 5-3. Central then managed to tie iy up with the help of an RBI double off the bat of catcher Kevin O’Malley (4-for-4).
 
But the biggest swing of the game came from Collin Gottschalk, who gave the Vikings the lead a game-winning RBI single
 
With the win, Central still needs one more win over its rival in order to secure the city title - the pair of clubs will square off again next Thursday.
 
“I always tell the players that in this rivalry, you can throw the records away,” said Roffi. “Next week we have games Monday, Tuesday, doubleheader Wednesday, and them Thursday and both teams are going to be ready and it’ll be a lot like this game, a one, two run game and a gut check. Those with great nerves are going to win and those who don’t are going to lose.”
 
Northern (9-7) built up its lead in the first six innings, behind three RBI from Devin Hager and two more by way of junior Drake Lubin. From the mound, Northern senior starter Ryan Snyder silenced the red-hot Central bats for much of the first six innings of the day.
 
Knights skipper Kevin La Plante praised Snyder for his outing on Wednesday and his ability to limit the Central bats for a majority of the game.
 
“There’s no doubt, they (Central) are a hot team, an athletic team, a good hitting team, they had a good pitcher, they had their number one on the mound and Snyder has been really the consistent force for us all year,” he said. “We’ve lost a couple of other people due to injury and he has just stepped up in every big moment and he’s even been struggling with the bat a little bit and today, he erupted out of it and helped his cause. Even when he didn’t have great control, he just stayed in battling, he’s a warrior and he plays with such tremendous heart and if anything I feel bad for him with how it shook out today.”