KINGSBURG - The Vikings ended the 2019 regular season with two losses to Exeter and Selma, but Kingsburg will play at least one more time on the diamond this year as the No. 12 seed in the Central Section Division IV playoffs.
The Vikings (10-18, 4-8 Central Sequoia League) will begin it’s playoff run on the road today in a first round game against No. 5 Monache (15-12, 7-8 East Yosemite League).
“We got to show up, we got to play,” Kingsburg head coach Jim Cranford said after the loss to Exeter. “We can’t get off the bus and have a deer in the headlights look. We got to be ready to play.”
Even though the Vikings have a record under .500, Kingsburg is one of five teams in the Division IV playoffs with a positive strength of schedule rating. The Vikings ended the regular season with a 3.3 plus schedule rating, which was the second most in the division.
As for the final two games of the regular season, Kingsburg fell 4-3 in extra innings to Selma on Thursday and the Vikings lost 8-1 to Exeter two days prior.
The Monarchs (19-9, 7-5 CSL) are the No. 2 seed in Division IV while the Bears (22-4, 10-2 CSL) are top ranked team in Division III.
“When we come ready to play and our pitching is good, we got a chance [in Division IV],” Cranford said.
In the game against Exeter, the Monarchs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Jaykob Acosta that scored Jaycob Aurelio. In the second inning, Exeter scored four more runs to extend it’s lead 5-0.
Kingsburg was out hit by a mere 10-9 margin against the Monarchs.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Vikings had a golden opportunity to score.
Kingsburg loaded the bases with three-straight base hits from Dalton Alford, Ray Castro, and Ross Warholm. The three singles came with two outs in the inning. They would be stranded after Cristian Estrada was retired on a groundball to end the inning.
“We were hitting the ball pretty hard,” Vikings first baseman Joey Sanchez said. “Today was probably the hardest hit balls [all season], but we just got unlucky.”
Kingsburg scored it’s only run of the game in the third inning, however, the Vikings left runners on base in the fourth and fifth.
In the fourth inning, Cristian Estrada was stranded at second. Daniel Ingrao and Marcus Estrada were left on the corners in the fifth inning. Ingrao was on third while Marcus Estrada was on first.
“We just didn’t have a good approach at the plate,” Kingsburg second baseman Ross Warholm said.
Marcus Estrada scored the Vikings only run of the game after Jacob Gregory reached on a fielder’s choice.
In the final game of the regular season, Kingsburg played in extra innings against Selma after a 2-2 tie at the end of the seventh.
In the top of the eighth inning, Castro drove in the go-ahead run on a RBI single that scored Ingrao from second. Ingrao reached second after Selma outfielder Leo Arreguin dropped a fly ball in deep left field.
The Vikings ended up losing 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth after allowing the walk-off two-run double to Arreguin with two outs.
“We battled,” Alford said. “It was a hard fought game. It was probably the best game I’ve ever played.”
Alford, who started against the Bears, pitched his third-straight complete game and recorded double-digit strikeouts for the first time this season. Alford (3-2) tossed 7 ⅔ innings and fanned 10 batters.
“He threw well,” Cranford said about Alford. “When we play like this, we could beat anybody. We got hits when we needed to…. It was just a good high school ballgame.”
Kingsburg previously had a 2-0 lead in the third inning after Jacob Torres knocked in Marcus Estrada on a sacrifice fly and Adam Bratton scored on a two-out error.
In the third inning, Selma cut the Vikings’ lead to 2-1 after Ethan Wenter knocked in the Bears run on a RBI single. Arreguin tied the game 2-2 with an RBI double in the fourth inning.
Kingsburg will play on the road against Monache today at 4:30 p.m. The Vikings are aiming for it’s first playoff win since 2014. If Kingsburg wins, the Vikings will either travel to play at No. 3 Dos Palos or host No. 13 Yosemite in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Last season as the No. 10 seed in Division III, Kingsburg fell 11-4 on the road to No. 7 Dinuba in the first round.