Tuesday, July 27, 2010

IGH fought hard but Braaten, Outlaws prevail in end

The winless Inver Grove Heights Diamond Kings laced up their cleats and prepared to face the league-leading Savage Outlaws last night.

The result? IGH lost 11-4. But, it was still a step forward for the second year club, according to manager Jon Wulff.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Wulff, who’s team lost to Savage by scores of 19-1 and 24-1 earlier this season. “We’re all young guys and were getting better every game and developing ... it’s a good sign to be playing the best team in the league and to hang with them for five-six innings, that’s big for us.”

Savage, who along with Burnsville is a Cannon Valley League powerhouse, was in control early - leading 7-0 after three innings - but Wulff’s gutsy club put up four runs in the top of the fifth and actually out-hit the Outlaws late into the game.

Hefty righthander Roy Gutzman made the start on the mound for the Diamond Kings and had some control issues.

Gutzman allowed three walks in the first inning, the first of which was to Savage’s lead-off batter, Tyler Peterson. Two batters later, Outlaws catcher Ben Braaten did not take a free pass to first.

Instead, Braaten crushed a first pitch fastball from Gutzman for a no-doubter home run that cleared the right field fence by a good 10 feet.

“I just went up there and had my game plan, if the [pitch] is where I want it, I’m going to put a good swing on it,” said Braaten, who had three hits on the night, “I was able to put a nice power stroke on it and ended up getting it up and out of here.”

Inver Grove was able to escape the first inning only down the two runs, but things unraveled more in the second.

Dylan Peterson drew a five-pitch walk from Gutzman to begin the second. The Diamond Kings hurler was then able to get Zach King to fly out to center, but that would be the last Savage batter he would retire.

Following King’s flyout, Gutzman allowed his fifth walk of the night, then hit a Savage batter. With the bases loaded and one out, Braaten came to the plate. Gutzman threw a wild pitch to allow Savage’s third run, then walked Braaten to reload the bases.

This was the last straw for Gutzman as manager Wulff pulled his starting pitcher in favor of reliever Chris Vanderheiden.

The line on Gutzman? Not pretty. In 1 1/3 innings pitched, the Diamond Kings SP allowed 4 earned runs on just one hit - Gutzman had the hit batsmen and issued six walks.

Wulff’s reliever, Vanderheiden, was immediately knocked around by the Savage bats but would eventually settle in nicely for IGH.

Vanderheiden’s first batter, Tony Peterson, hit line drive to right for a sacrifice fly, then Savage’s John Means bashed an RBI-double. Evan Walker followed Means’ hit with the Outlaws’ fourth walk of the inning to load the bases again. However, Vanderheiden was able to escape further damage by getting Zach Harazin to line out to right on a 3-2 pitch.

The next inning Savage brought out the lumber again as King knocked a triple to the left-center gap and Tyler Peterson socked a Vanderheiden pitch over the fence in left for a two-run homer.

Down 7-0, it seemed like the Savage attack would only escalate from this point, but Vanderheiden would retire the next eight Outlaw batters and the IGH offense responded with four runs in the fifth.

Ben Briesacher began the Diamond Kings fifth with a soft, looping pop-up to short that inexplicably fell in front of shortstop Tyler Peterson for a lead-off single. The next IGH hitter dribbled a grounder toward third baseman Tony Peterson and he couldn’t find the handle on it as the runner was able to reach safely.

Inver Grove took advantage of the defensive complacency from Savage by scoring its first run when Briesacher crossed home plate on a sharp single to left by Justin Mikel. The Mikel hit was technically the third IGH hit, but was really the first solid hit surrendered by Savage starter John Pohl.

Three batters later, Diamond Kings third baseman Jeremy Bade came up with the biggest IGH hit of the night. Down 0-2 in the count, Bade smacked a Pohl pitch down the third base line for a two-run single to make the score 7-3.

“I was just trying to fight it off and stay alive,” said Bade describing the hit, “then I got a hold of it, wasn’t too hot before that but came through toward the end.”

Bade’s team added one more run to narrow the gap to three runs and suddenly turn a possible Outlaws romp into a tight tussle.

Frustration mounted for Savage in the bottom of the fifth as the offense had been stymied. Harazin and Dylan Peterson each flew out before King was called out on a questionable call for strike three to end the inning. An argument ensued and King was tossed out of the game.

The Outlaws would tally a run in the sixth inning, however, as Braaten nailed an RBI-double to left center to make the score 8-4.

IGH was able to chase starter Pohl from the game as reliever Brandon Walczak began the seventh on the mound for Savage. Walczak immediately unleashed a couple pitches nowhere near the plate against his first batter, Aaron Stokke, but the flamethrowing lefty regrouped to get Stokke on a check-swing for strike three.

Walczak then struck out Inver Grove’s Jake Keefer and later got Dan Lojovich flailing on a curveball for his third strikeout of the inning.

In the eighth, Savage inevitably put the game out of reach. Another RBI double by Braaten chased Vanderheiden out of the game, then IGH’s third pitcher - Justin Mikel - was greeted abruptly by Tony Peterson.

Peterson hammered the first pitch he saw, sending a laser shot to left-center that cleared the fence by mere inches. The ball was probably never more than 15-20 feet off the ground and traveled from home plate to the fence in about 1 1/2 seconds.

“It’s a good thing that ball went over, otherwise it probably would of put a hole through that fence,” remarked one unnamed witness from his perch near the visiting team’s dugout.

The Peterson homer put the final damage on Inver Grove as Savage took an 11-4 lead and went on to win by that score.

Despite the loss, IGH manager Wulff saw a couple bright spots in Vanderheiden and Bade.

“[Bade] has been one of our solid points [this year],” said Wulff, regarding his third baseman, who played sterling defense and connected for two of Inver Grove’s six hits. “He did a solid job in the field and with the stick.”

Wulff also commended Vanderheiden for his efforts - the relief pitcher threw 5 1/3 innings against a very tough Savage offense.

“Vandy said he only wanted to throw one inning, but it turned out to be five or six, so that’s good to see,” said Wulff. “He did a good job out of relief and hopefully we’ll get him a start soon.”

That start would have to be in the playoffs as the loss to Savage finished Inver Grove Heights regular season schedule.

Savage (12-3 CVL, 28-7 overall), has its hands full this week before the CVL playoffs begin on Sunday. The Outlaws play one final league game tonight against Burnsville, then travel to Green Isle and Rochester on Wednesday and Thursday.

Notable individual efforts:

Savage Outlaws
~ Ben Braaten - 3-for-4, HR, 2 2Bs, 4 RBI
~ Tony Peterson - 1-for-4, HR, Sac Fly, 3 RBI
~ Tyler Peterson - 1-for3, HR, 2 BBs, 3 Rs, 2 RBI

IGH Diamond Kings
~ Jeremy Bade - 2-for-4, 2 1Bs, 2 RBI

**I covered this game as a reporter, taking game photos and conducting three post-game interviews. The pictures used throughout the article are - from top to bottom - IGH manager Jon Wulff after pitching conference with SP Roy Gutzman, Savage's Dylan Peterson scoring a run after a wild pitch, Savage SP John Pohl, IGH's Chris Vanderheiden pitching to Savage's Ben Braaten.

No comments: