By Mike Deak
AKRON – It would be easy to just say Tippecanoe Valley had waited two years for a shot at its neighbors to the north. But a literal two years has passed since the two clubs met on the baseball diamond, and Valley used the opportunity to post a 6-3 win on Warsaw Wednesday evening.
“They know these kids, they are just down the road,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Jarred Littlejohn. “A lot of our guys played against them in the summer. I tried to tell them to keep their approach the same every time. Have the same approach going up every time and stick to it. I think they did that tonight.”
That methodology was adhered to by Rex Kirchenstien in a big way. The speedy junior ripped not just one, but two triples to the right-center gap, and came in to score on a pair of Marcus Bernicky at-bats. Kirchenstien also walked and scored on an RBI poke from Noah Prater.
“He’s coming along, and that’s what we want out of Rex,” added Littlejohn. “He is big for our lineup and big for this team. If we can get his bat going and get his bat staying hot, it just makes our baseball team a lot better. That’s how it was tonight. Anytime the ball is out in the outfield, I expect him to get those.”
Bernicky and Brendyn Stump added RBI singles for the Vikings, which found themselves down 2-0 after a half inning, but scored its six runs before Warsaw would be able to respond.
The Tigers got the game going with a double from Aaron Greene, who came around to score on an Alex Light single. Light worked himself over to third, then came home on a passed ball for the early two-run advantage.
A Light single followed by a Joey Springer double cut the Valley lead in half at 6-3, but relief pitcher DJ Estep got a groundout to end the threat, then closed the door in the seventh to notch the save.
Owen Kirchenstien picked up the win for the Vikings, working five innings, allowing just two hits and fanning eight. Estep struck out four in his two innings of relief. Greene shouldered the loss, allowing three hits and four walks in 2.1 innings on the hill for the Tigers. Kyle Showley allowed just one earned in 3.2 innings of relief for the visitors.
“Baseball boils down to a very simple game, hit the ball, throw the ball, catch the ball, and we didn’t do a very good job with any of those things tonight,” said Warsaw head coach Andy Manes. “Our approach at the plate was not great, defensively it might have looked OK from an outsider’s perspective, but it wasn’t great. You can’t give them four, five, six outs an inning and expect to win ball games.”
Valley moves to 2-1 overall, both of its wins coming this week after a no-hitter from Cameron Manuel at Triton on Monday. The Vikings get back to work Friday and Saturday against South Bend Adams and Bremen. The Tigers fall to 0-3 and are embarking on three games in three days, at home on Thursday against Huntington North.
“Teams that we play, they don’t care about what we did the day before, every team is going to be gunning for us,” Manes said. “Huntington North is coming in tomorrow and they are going to want to kill us. Will we respond in kind remains to be seen. At this level, college, pro, it’s good to be able to go out the next day and give it another go.”