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Liners, Vikings enter postseason as familiar foes

Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Rob Winner –
Northwest Indiana baserunner Craig Austgen (left) is doubled up at second base as DeKalb County shortstop Brent Turner steps on the bag to end the top of the third inning Saturday during a game in Sycamore. The Liners open the Midwest Collegiate League postseason today with a semifinal series against Southland in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – A consistent season of wins and strong performances from start to finish in the Midwest Collegiate League has put the DeKalb County Liners in the best playoff position possible.

The Liners are the No. 1 seed going into the MCL playoffs, having clinched the pennant on the final day of the regular season.

The first game of the best-of-three first-round series starts at 7:05 p.m. today at Sycamore Park against the No. 4 seed, the Southland Vikings (20-23).

The Liners ended the regular season at 28-15, going 8-2 in their final 10 games to clinch homefield advantage throughout the two-round playoffs.

“Playing at home is absolutely an advantage, we have such supportive fans and we all love playing in front of them,” first baseman Joey Burney said. “We seem to get more pumped up to play for our fans.”

DeKalb County will look to extend its three-game winning streak into today’s game by relying on team chemistry and limiting mistakes, things they feel have brought them to this point.

“We all have grown very close as a team,” Burney said. “When one guy makes a mistake, the next guy picks him up. Whether it be defensively or offensively, we are always there to pick each other up when a mistake is made.”

The Liners finished the season strong with a one-run win over Northwest Indiana on Saturday and closing out Sunday with a victory against the Chicago Zephyrs.

DeKalb County has been led by the power hitting of Burney (seven home runs, nine doubles) and the strong pitching performances of Brody Justice (6-2 record, 40 strikeouts, 3.30 ERA).

“Pitching has been our strength all season, the key for us is producing offensively in timely situations.” Liners general manager Josh Pethoud said.

Thus far it has been an even battle between DeKalb County and Southland. In the regular season, the Vikings have seen the Liners six times and split the season series.

The Vikings are 5-5 in the last 10 games and led by shortstop Elliot Armstrong, whose batting average is .387, and lefty pitcher Chris Chigas, who posted a 1.89 ERA this season.

The Liners plan against the Vikings is one grounded in past play, Pethoud said.

“I have a game plan as far as pitching strategy, defensively seeing guys multiple times is definitely a huge plus, when it comes down to formulating a game plan.” Pethound said.

The winner of the first-round series will advance to the MCL championship series against the winner of Northwest Indiana and DuPage County.

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