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Baseball | St. Laurence looks strong in early going

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By Steve Millar 
Correspondent

Luke Stulga is confident St. Laurence has a special team this season, but it’s about more than the talent highlighted by the many Division I recruits on the roster.

“I think it’s the chemistry and relationships everyone has combined with the work ethic we have,” said Stulga, a senior outfielder. “Everyone busts their butts 24/7. It was one of the best offseasons I’ve seen in my four years here, if not the best. I think it’s a great group of guys who want to win.”

The Vikings continued their strong start March 29. Notre Dame recruit DJ Helwig was dominant on the mound and Stulga produced the breakthrough two-run double in St. Laurence’s 5-1 home win over Lincoln-Way East.

The Vikings (7-1) suffered their first loss of the season the following day, falling 2-1 to DePaul Prep, before bouncing back with a 10-2 win over De La Salle on April 1.

In the victory over Lincoln-Way East, Helwig struck out 10 and did not issue a walk in 6 1/3 innings. He allowed four hits and took a shutout into the seventh inning before allowing a run.

“He was outstanding,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus said of Helwig. “From pitch one, he was pounding the zone. That’s obviously a key for every pitcher, but especially DJ. His stuff is so good that if he throws it over the plate, he’s going to be tough to hit.

“I was super impressed with his offspeed, too, throwing it for strikes when he needed it. A couple times they got guys on and he kept his composure.”

Minnesota recruit Jameson Martin went 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Jesse Contreras finished 2-for-4 with an RBI to lead the Vikings offense.

Lincoln-Way East (5-2) struggled offensively, but Ball State recruit Zach Kwasny matched Helwig over the first four innings, keeping it a 0-0 game.

The Vikings broke through in the fifth, with the bottom of the order starting the rally. No. 8 hitter Michael Gurgone was hit by a pitch and Ryan Seddon followed with a bunt single.

Lotus said some good at-bats St. Laurence had earlier in the game paid off in the fifth as the Vikings were able to wear down Kwasny.

“The first inning was OK and the third and fourth were big,” Lotus said. “We didn’t come through, but we got some guys on base and I think making him pitch under that pressure really helped us later. We had some big at-bats.

“Gurgone, leading off the fifth, had a long at-bat and then got hit by a pitch, and that was huge in a game like that.”

Martin followed with another base hit to load the bases and, one out later, Stulga delivered with a two-run double down the right-field line.

Lotus is becoming accustomed to seeing Stulga step up in big situations and set the tone for the rest of the team.

“These guys work really, really hard,” Lotus said. “They’re in early in the morning for extra hitting. I’m really proud of the leadership. Guys like Luke and Jesse (Contreras), who have been around for a while have become really good leaders, especially for the younger guys.”

The Vikings broke the game open with three two-out runs in the sixth. Martin delivered an RBI double and scored on Contreras’ single.

“I went up there with one thing in mind to either get on or push a run across,” Martin said. “I was looking for one pitch and he gave it to me and I went with it.”

In the loss to DePaul Prep, Louisville recruit Joe Olson threw four strong innings for the Vikings, allowing one run on two hits and striking out nine.

The Vikings had 10 hits but could only push across one run. Mike Carrano and Daniel Coyle led St. Laurence with three hits each.

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