With two outs and the potential winning run on second base in the bottom of the 10th inning of Westphal-Armstrong’s game against Anoka June 29, Nick Valkevich stepped into the batter’s box hoping to send his teammates home as winners.
With two strikes against him, Valkevich took an inside fastball and blooped a base hit over the head of the Anoka third baseman, and Michael O’Malley slid home to give Westphal-Armstrong a 2-1 10-inning victory.
“The mentality was to hit the ball hard somewhere and I had two strikes on me, so it was time to do it,” Valkevich said. “He gave me an inside fastball, one I can hit.
“This is going to ride us for a long time. When we get momentum we just keep going, going, going.”
Westphal-Armstrong head coach Jimmer Nunn hoped his team would be able to show resiliency after a 6-1 loss to Maple Grove June 27. Resiliency is exactly what his team showed against Anoka.
“It was pretty perfect because we played Maple Grove, and Maple Grove is a good team, that’s obvious,” Nunn said. “We said that if we wanted to be a team that competes we have to be resilient, and this game was 10 innings and 2-1, that’s a resilient team.
“We’re setting goals, we’re meeting goals and this is going to help our varsity program a lot, this will help our season going forward and this will help our team. Everybody participated, everybody had a job, and that’s what I have been trying to teach, the teamwork.”
Valkevich’s clutch hit was preceded by 10 strong innings from Blake Williams, who has been Westphal-Armstrong’s ace this summer. Williams allowed eight hits, one run and one walk while striking out seven batters. He threw only 112 pitches.
“Blake is our No. 1, a guy we don’t worry about and he comes prepared,” Nunn said. “He’s a high school pitcher who watches film on teams and he is setting such a good example for all of our young players.
“He is the complete deal, we have total trust in him. He wanted to go another inning, but we ended it in 10.”
Williams said command of his fastball and his ability to throw his curveball for strikes helped him during his successful outing.
“I feel good, I feel great,” Williams said. “I was locating my fastball well, I was hitting the outside corner, and they couldn’t touch it.
“My team is giving me the confidence I need.”
The win over Anoka boosted Westphal-Armstrong’s record to 7-3 on the season. After a slow start just one year ago, Nunn has been pleased with what he has seen from his group this season.
“Every season, every program goes through waves,” Nunn said. “We’re competitive right now and our job is to teach competitiveness and these are wins that help our program.
“I’m still looking at the spring season and what we have to do there, but learning how to win includes winning and that’s important to do in this season, be really competitive.”
Despite the early success, Nunn knows his team must continue to play the way it has been in order to maintain its success.
“We’re just taking everything one game at a time,” Nunn said. “We’re 7-3, so I’m feeling pretty good, but if we start thinking that we’re 7-3 and can dance through the Gopher that doesn’t mean anything.
“We still have to be competitive, we still have to be resilient, we still have to be all those things to have success.”
Westphal-Armstrong will play next in the Gopher Classic tournament at 7 p.m. Friday, July 7, at Northwestern University in Roseville.
Follow Sun Post sports editor Chris Chesky on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris and on Facebook at SunSportsStaff.