With a workmanlike consistency and focus, the St. Laurence Vikings baseball team out of Bubank, Ill., has proven to be a strong contender for the title at the inaugural IMG National Classic baseball tournament. After an 11-1 bludgeoning of St. Francis at McKechnie Field on Tuesday, the Vikings took the diamond as the No. 1 seed in the event facing No. 8 Notre Dame College Prep. The game was a pitchers’ duel from the very outset, with Notre Dame’s Liam Prior and St. Laurence’s Zach Lewis on the mound. Prior’s pitching was stellar, forcing the Vikings to switch to small-ball to manufacture runs, but Lewis proved nearly unhittable. Lewis gave the Vikings breathing room to put together four runs, which was enough to advance to the semifinals by a 4-0 margin.
“We didn’t play our best game today, especially early on, but Zach [Lewis] did great all game and kept us in it,” said head coach Pete Lotus. “I’m excited for us to be going into the next round 2-0, and at this point it’s all about facing that good competition.”
The player of the game was pitcher Zach Lewis. The 6-foot-4 Lewis was throwing a no-hitter through five innings before an error in the sixth ended it. Nevertheless, Lewis kept the Notre Dame bats quiet to give his team a chance to win.
“I just go out there to compete and give my team the best chance to win, and count our offense to score runs for us,” Lewis said after the game.
With a combined 15-1 run margin over their first two opponents, the Vikings are off to a hot start. In the semifinals, they will face the No. 3 seed IMG Academy. IMG Academy is coming off a tournament championship of their own, winning the Cleats Classic tournament in Arizona last month. IMG Academy rattled off four straight wins in the championship bracket as the No. 11 seed to take the title after a disappointing 1-3 record in pool play.
Lewis will take the field at third base for the next game, but he is not intimidated. “We play hard no matter who we’re playing – we just compete against the game, and don’t worry about the other team, because if you just worry about the game, good things will happen.”
In the meantime, St. Laurence’s players and their fans who traveled from the chilly Chicago suburb of Burbank are enjoying the weather, and the world class facilities at IMG Academy, in addition to the added bonus of playing a game on Tuesday at McKechnie Field, the Spring Training home of Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I was a great atmosphere for our kids to come and see a beautiful facility, and anytime you get to play in a professional stadium, it’s a great thing, and a great experience for the kids,” Lotus remarked about the experience of Tuesday’s game.
However, the temperate Florida weather is paying dividends for the Vikings.
“When we left [Burbank], it was 20-degrees outside, and after several weeks of that, we were only able to get in a couple of games, so coming down here and playing in 80-degree is a great thing – it’s how all baseball should be. It’s a beautiful facility, great people here and a great atmosphere to play a tournament,” Lotus commented.
The Vikings are 6-1 on the regular season, and are looking forward to tough competition moving forward in the tournament. On Wednesday evening, the Vikings were hosted as special guests of the Tampa Bay Rays during their game against the Baltimore Orioles, and St. Laurence led the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
To view the latest schedule of games, live scores and more, please visit the IMG National Classic website by clicking HERE.
To see the games LIVE on the internet, you can check out the live streaming HERE.
The event is open to the public.
More photos from the day:
Final Results from the first round:
St. John's College HS
St. Francis Catholic HS
St. Laurence HS
Notre Dame College Prep