A stronghold in the field has propelled Langdon/Edmore/Munich to 10-0, defeating Park River
A lot of the Cardinals' "tighter" games this season are comparative to a Janga. For a good three to four innings, both teams' defensive units refuse to allow anything through, exchanging outs back and forth, seeing who will give first.
As the game progresses, someone has got to give in somewhere, similar to a swaying tower of wooden blocks about to collapse. Eventually, around the fourth or fifth inning, the Cardinals call "JANGA", breaking the defensive stalemate and toppling their opponent's defensive standing. And when their opponent tries to take a swing at them, they remain balanced.
It may take L/E/M a few innings to break through in some of its games, but its fielding from behind the plate to the outfield wall has remained constant and steady. It was the same story against Park River on Monday, seeing L/E/M lean on its defensive before its offense picked up and slammed the door with a bang.
Senior pitcher Cooper Zimmer, with the help of his teammates, held back any sort of bite from the Aggies on offense, pitching a complete game for a 7-0 win over Park River. With the win, the Cardinals boost their record to 10-0, being the only team in Class be to boast a 10-0 record and one of two still undefeated teams left in the state.
"It was a good win and we knew that Park River was a quality team," Cardinals head coach Josh Krivarchka said. "With the wind blowing in like it was, it kind of turns it into a defensive battle. I thought both teams threw a strike and I thought our kids came out with some big base hits. I feel like when Cooper pitches, we play well defensively."
That defensive mentality that Krivarchka predicted when Zimmer takes the mound fell into place on Monday. The Aggies would only record five hits on the day and when they were able to make it on to base, the Cardinals took advantage of any mistakes Park River might make. The Aggies never made it home because the Cardinals were either catching them stealing or making double plays, catching the Aggies by surprise.
The Cardinals defense stood tall when the bats were warming up, allowing them to control Park River's offensive abilities. Krivarchka said they do try to jump on teams, offensively, early, but when it doesn't, the Cardinals have shown resiliency on both sides of the plate.
"Our kids just kept battling at the plate," Krivarchka said. "We move the ball around a lot, like to bunt at times, put pressure on the defense and I thought our kids did that really well today. We made them make plays and we came up with some big base hits in the later innings."
It would take some more patience in the third inning for the Cardinals to get on the scoreboard as Zimmer would take advantage of an Aggie error to get on the board. The fourth inning would see Park River's defense begin to sway again as sophomore outfielder Gage Goodman would score sophomore outfielder Markus Kingzett off a fielding error, getting Goodman to third. Goodman would take advantage of a wild pitch on the next at-bat to make it 3-0.
The Aggies would still be in striking distance arriving to the fifth inning but would go 1-2-3 at home plate, and that is where L/E/M pounced. The Romfo family would rumble in as senior infielders Grant Romfo and Simon Romfo would score off a double from their cousin sophomore first baseman Jack Romfo to make it 5-0. Zimmer would get into the mix again to make it 6-0.
Following another double by Grant in the sixth to score Goodman, the Cardinals would once again erupt late and steady hand their defense to walk away with another win.
"I felt we were taking quality at-bats and getting our pitch," Krivarchka said. "Our biggest thing is that our three, four, five hitters were coming through in big spots there and that's what we need them to do."
One base runner who has really pushed the Cardinals speed-wise is Grant. A lot of the seniors' shots just beyond the in-field have gone down as doubles rather than singles due to his base running. Alongside his efforts in base-stealing, the infielder has been hard to catch up to. So much so that sometimes his coaches are telling him to slow down a bit, seeing him nearly push for a triple late in Monday's game.
"Grant has had a really good year hitting at the plate," Krivarchka said. "It's not like I expect him to double on every hit, but we expect him to have a good quality at-bat and he's done that for us. If he has a chance to put it at the gap, he can get two or three bases because he does move well."
While the baserunning has been a strong point for the Cardinals on offense, one thing that they're looking to up a little more is their hitting. The defense has continued to be a stable piece for L/E/M, allowing them to focus on areas they might want to improve in. Krivarchka said the Cardinals' successes in base-running and defense have come down to the team's athleticism and ability to just run fast.
"Hitting every game is a different story and we're always working on that, and trying to improve it," Krivarchka said. "We feel like if we can put the ball in play, we can move people around because we have a lot of speed on the bases. Our defense has been good all year and our pitching has been good. Any time you throw strikes it keeps the defense on their toes. They're always ready to play."
Pitching has been another key piece for the Cardinals this season inside their defensive unit, having strong faith in not just one, but three arms. Alongside Zimmer, Grant and Simon have put L/E/M in a comfortable place on the mound. The trio has combined for five shutouts this season, plus two three-run games.
Nearing the post-season, L/E/M is looking to continue to trend upward on all ends, igniting the bats earlier and keeping the defense as steady as a rock. Heading down their schedule, the Cardinals do face a few more challenges in Northern Lights (May 4), who is at the top of the Region V standings, Grafton (May 13), who gave L/E/M a higher matchup earlier this year, and (May Bishop Ryan (May 15), who is currently 14-4.
"The biggest thing is that we have to keep improving," Krivarchka said. "We knew this was going to be a big game today and a big region matchup, and we've put ourselves in the good spot going forward. Tomorrow is just another game and we've got to keep improving."
As for Monday's game, while there aren't too many feelings between squads in a regular-season matchup, there isn't any love lost between L/E/M and Park River. The Aggies knocked L/E/M out of state contention in 2019. With the Cardinals getting the best of them in the regular season, the postseason loss from two years ago is still in the back of their minds.
"The only way we can have a rivalry between Park River is if we can beat them," Krivarchka said. "We beat them a few different times, but we never beat them in the big games, so that's in the back of our minds. It'll be a rivalry when we beat them in the region tournament."