Henry Bratten’s first double-header as a high school head coach ended as well as possible, with two victories.
Down by 5, Vikings rally for Coach Bratten’s first win
But the 2018 Vinton-Shellsburg baseball season definitely did not start that way.
The Vikings fell behind East Marshall, 2-0, before recording any outs in the first inning, which included errors and miscues by the young players, many of whom were making their first varsity start.
By the time they came to bat in the fifth inning, the Vikes were down, 5-0.
But then they turned it around, scoring four in the fifth inning and keeping the Mustangs from scoring in the final two frames.
Down by a run in the final inning, the Vikings loaded the bases for sophomore catcher Payton Haefner. He ended the game by driving in two runs with a walk-off single.
“I am very proud of the guys,” says Bratten. “We got down early due to a few mental errors, but that didn’t stop the boys. They did a real good job of keeping their composure and competing. We strung together a few hits to score some runs to get the momentum back.”
After a shaking start on defense, the Vikings made “a few good defensive plays that really kept us in it,” says Bratten. “Payton Haefner threw out two guys out during the game and Mitch Bos threw out a runner out at home plate. Those were huge for us.”
The Vikes got great pitching in game 1 from senior Blake Bohnsack and reliever Nathan Harrelson, says Bratten. “They threw a lot of strikes and good things happen when our pitchers throw strikes. I just couldn’t be more proud as a head coach to see our guys not give up, especially with it being Game 1 of a long season. It just shows the mentality of this group we have and the way they find ways to win.”
Bratten says he felt some first-game jitters as he prepared to hand the home plate umpire his first line-up card.
“Before we took the field I turned to Coach Struve (who is now an assistant coach) and asked him if he was nervous for his first game 26 years ago,” recalls Bratten. “Butterflies were definitely flying around but once we took our infield/outfield I settled down a little and felt right at home. Being in the captain’s chair does have some added responsibility but at the end of the day baseball is still baseball. When I handed the ump the lineup card and he looked it over and said, ‘Looks good,” I thought to myself, ‘Yes, it does.’ Then and there it hit me that this was real.”
The Vikings took a 7-0 lead after four innings in Game 2, and held on for a 7-3 win. Scott Betterton started on the mound for the Vikes and earned the win; Haefner finished the game after coming in to relieve Betterton.
Offensively, the Vikes took advantage of Mustang pitchers’ wildness, earning many bases on balls and advancing on several passed balls. Keegan Thompson, Cole Overton, and Charlie Dudleyall scored twice; Cole had 2 hits, Axl Hoepner had 2 rbi.
The baseball season continues with a home double-header Friday vs. Maquoketa and the first road trip next Tuesday, to Center Point-Urbana.