By Mitchell Boatman

WHITEHALL – Sometimes even coaches are surprised when their moves work extremely well.

Whitehall baseball coach Warren Zweigle found himself in that position after an impressive pitching performance from Kayleb Venema.

Venema threw 6 1/3 innings of relief on Tuesday to help the Vikings pick up a 7-5 win in Game 2 of a West Michigan Conference doubleheader against Shelby.

Shelby won the first game 10-8.

“We knew we could count on Kayleb for a couple innings, but I didn’t see him coming in and throwing (the rest of the game),” said Zweigle, whose team is now 3-6 overall and 3-3 in conference play. “He was outstanding tonight. He really came up big for us.”

Shelby jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a two-out rally. Seven consecutive batters reached with two down, starting with a drop in the outfield.

“Two out, nobody on and we dropped a fly ball,” Zweigle said. “It opened the floodgates and they scored four runs. We’ve got to do a better job on defense. If you make one play that you’re not supposed to, it creates a lot of havoc.”

The Vikings were short of pitchers after doubleheaders Saturday and Monday, but had to turn to Venema for relief in the first inning.

He did the job, holding Shelby in check the rest of the way and allowing Whitehall to rally.

The sophomore allowed just two hits and one run in his relief outing, and added a pair of doubles at the plate.

“I just needed to come in there and throw and let my defense do the work.” Venema said. “You’ve always got to be ready.”

Whitehall scored three runs in the third, two in the fourth, and two in the fifth to come back and win Game 2. Merrick Schmehil had three hits and an RBI while Tom Balaskovitz knocked in three runs with a pair of singles. Jacob Loudermilk and Jackson VanBergen each had two hits.

Simon Payne led Shelby’s offense with three hits. He also pitched four innings. Matt Felt collected two hits and Brent Worth drove in two runs.

In the opening game, Shelby jumped up to a 5-0 lead in the second inning. The Tigers tacked on four more in the sixth and one in the seventh to lead 10-4 heading to the bottom of the seventh.

Whitehall rallied for four runs, but fell just short of the comeback.

“The kids hung on, it was a weird game,” Shelby coach Brain Wright said, whose team is 2-5 and 1-1. “Our pitching struggled a little, but they kept battling. At the plate we really had some good at bats.”