Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jacobson, Bobcats bats lead Burnsville by Winsted

The Winsted Wildcats swept through their Section 8 playoffs and had ace pitcher Tony Kley on the mound versus the Burnsville Bobcats for its first ever Class B State Tournament game Sunday at Bird Island's Lions Memorial Park.

Furthermore, the Wildcats batters were able to touch up Burnsville ace Casey Jacobson for a six-hit, four-run inning. However, Jacobson regained his poise, and a mix of Wildcats erorrs and Bobcats hits led Burnsville to an 11-5 victory.

Jacobson, Burnsville’s 20-year-old ace, survived a four-run fourth inning to allow just three hits and one earned run the rest of the way in earning the complete-game win.

“He was tough on the mound, there’s no question about that,” said Winsted manager Aaron Shultz regarding Jacobson, “he’s a tough pitcher, but we did have five runs and 10 hits, ultimately it was our defense that let us down.”

Schultz’ ace, Kley - who entered the game with an 11-0 record and 0.79 ERA - faced 29 Burnsville batters in 5 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits and six runs, but only one run was earned as the Winsted defense commited five errors on the night.

The game began with Burnsville’s Scott Lindner blistering a Kley offering to right for a lead-off single. Kley temporarily escaped any trouble with a strikeout / throwout double play as he was able to get the next Bobcats batter, Matt Trocke, swinging and his catcher, Matt Wroge, pegged out Lindner at second.

But just as Kley seemingly completed the inning as Burnsville’s Charlie Dubanoski hit a grounder to short, Winsted shortstop Josh Anthony’s throw went awry and Dubanoski reached safely.

The Bobcats took advantage of the Wildcats gaffe as Roddy Hjort pulled a single to left and Jeremy Chlan ripped a two-run triple to right center. Chlan - who Burnsville drafted from the Elko Express for the tournament - came around to score as Anthony made another errant throw, this time on ground ball by Burnsville’s Robby Wiens.

Burnsville added another unearned run in the third inning before the Winsted offense was able to bat its whole lineup against Jacobson in the fourth.

Matt Wroge led off the the inning with a fly out to right but Winsted’s next batter - pitcher Joe Kley - was able to directly harm his counterpart by obliterating a Jacobson pitch an approximate 350 feet over the fence in left for a solo home run.

The Kley homer ignited the Wildcats offense as five of Winsted’s next six batters hit singles off Jacobson to score three more runs. Nine-hitter Curtis Herboshimer completed Winsted’s rally by extending his bat on a low, outside pitch to lift a single to right to drive in the game-tying run.

In the fifth inning, two Bobcats errors set up another scoring opportunity for Winsted. A single by Greg Kohler nearly tied the game but Bobcats leftfielder Lindner threw a pea to catcher Chlan to easily nail Kohler at the plate.

There were now two outs but the Wildcats were able to give their highly-visible fan base something to cheer about as the team’s next batter, Cullen Schultz, delivered a RBI-single to right to give Winsted its first lead of the game.

Winsted's lead was short-lived, however, as Burnsville responded with three hits and two runs in the top of the sixth inning.

The Bobcats picked up yet another unearned run in the seventh inning, but the game remained tight entering the game’s final frame.

Burnsville began the ninth inning up two runs but hoped to tack on some insurance runs. Winsted reliever Josh Anthony started the inning by retiring the Bobcats’ four- and five-hitters - Hjort and Chlan - on a grounder to second and a flyout.

The following Burnsville batter, Wiens, was able to work full-count walk off Anthony and that opened the door for four Bobcats runs. Chad Eul crushed a ball off the fence in right to drive in one run, but the big death blow came from nine-hitter David Keeney.

With two runners on, Keeney smacked a first-pitch offering from Anthony over the fence in left for a three-run homer.

“We knew it was their nine-hitter and threw him a get-me-over, first-pitch strike,” said Winsted skipper Schultz, “but lineups are too good one-through-nine at this level.”

“I could hear their coach saying ‘nine-hitter’ and that riled me up a little bit,” said Keeney of the at-bat, “[but] anytime [a pitcher] throws it right down the middle on the first pitch, I’m just trying to hit it as hard as I can.”

Keeney’s blast slammed the door on any chance Winsted had of a comeback as Burnsville’s lead increased to six.

Jacobson allowed a lead-off walk in the bottom of the ninth inning, but he retired the next three Winsted batters to finish off the Burnsville win. Following the game, Bobcats manager / centerfielder Wiens was very proud of his young hurler.

“Nothing new from him,” said Wiens of Jacobson, “he just goes out there and throws strikes. He had one bad inning but that’s like one bad inning over [his last] five starts.”

Wiens, Jacobson and the rest of the Bobcats advance to the second round of the State Tournament when the team will square off with the Sauk Rapids Cyclones this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Willmar.

Notable individual efforts:
Burnsville Bobcats
~ Casey Jacobson: CG, W, 9 IP, 10 Hs, 5 Rs (2 ERs), 6 Ks, 2 BBs
~ Scott Lindner: 4-for-6, RBI, R
~ Jeremy Chlan: 2-for-4, 3B, BB, 2 RBI, 2 Rs, SB
~ David Keeney: 1-for-3, HR, 2 BBs, 3 RBI, R

Winsted Wildcats
~ Cullen Schultz: 2-for-4, 2 RBI, R
~ Joe Kley: 1-for-4, HR, RBI, 2 Rs
~ Curtis Herboshimer: 2-for-3, RBI

**Note: I was a reporter for this game, witnessing most of the game from the end of the Burnsville dugout. Photos of this game were difficult as the game began at 8:00 p.m. and, though the game was played under lights, the darkness does not bode well with my camera's limited abilities. The pictures used in this article are mostly pre-game and are displayed from top-to-bottom as follows - Pitcher Casey Jacobson warming up with catcher Jeremy Chlan, Winsted pitcher Joe Kley on the mound, a young fan showing her Winsted spirit, Burnsville players - Roddy Hjort, Charlie Dubanoski, Chad Eul and Matt Trocke - during pregame introductions.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pugliese pitches Outlaws past Huskies in State Tourney opener

Savage’s Travis Pugliese cooled off a hot Hutchinson offense to lead his Outlaws to a 4-1 opening-round win over the Huskies at the amateur baseball Class B State Tournament Sunday evening in Bird Island.

The Outlaws ace allowed just one run to a Hutchinson team that earned its entry to State with an impressive 20-6 win over Section 8 two-seed St. Michael last week.

“He pitched really well today,” said Savage skipper Travis Peterson of Pugliese’s performance, “we’re coming to expect good pitching and when you’ve got a number-one who can do that for you, that’s great.”

Peterson’s Outlaws struggled early offensively but eventually backed up Pugliese with four runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Tony Peterson and Zack King were both 3-for-3 at the plate while Ben Braaten and Tayler Rahm pitched in two hits apiece.

It was a frustrating start to the game for Savage as the team bounced into double plays to end both the first and second innings. The Outlaws were held scoreless through five innings, scattering four hits and two walks.

Pugliese labored a bit on the mound for Savage, allowing the Huskies to score the game’s first run after a pair of doubles in the fourth inning. The right-hander ran into some trouble in the fifth and sixth as well, but he was able to work his way out of jams and eventually gain control.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, with Pugliese having held Hutchinson to its slim 1-0 lead, the Outlaws offense was finally able to string some hits together and score its first two runs.

With one out, Ben Braaten ignited the Outlaws rally with a sharp single up the middle. Tony Peterson followed with an infield single to the Hutchinson shortstop’s backhand. Next, John Means slapped a single to center to score Braaten and tie the game. Lastly, on a good hustle play, Peterson was able to score on a ground ball to third by Zach Harazin - Harazin was out on a rare 5-2-3 putout but was credited with the go-ahead RBI.

Speed and aggressiveness on the base paths aided Savage in scoring its other two runs as well.

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Outlaws lead-off hitter Tyler Peterson drew a walk. Rahm followed with a single to center, just to the right of Huskies centerfielder Jarrod Zelm. Peterson rounded second base on the play and hustled toward third, forcing a throw by Zelm that sailed into the Hutchinson dugout, allowing Peterson to score. Rahm was awarded third base on the errant throw and would score on a single to right by Braaten.

“We were gonna make [the other team] make plays,” said manager Travis Peterson following the game, “when you’re in a close game we put the pressure on them to make the plays, if they do, hats off to them.”

The Huskies didn’t, in this case, as Zelm’s error assisted the Outlaws in building a three-run lead - which was plenty sufficient for Pugliese.

In the top of the eighth, Pugliese induced three consecutive groundouts to third baseman Tony Peterson. The Savage hurler made it four straight grounders to third as Hutchinson’s Ryan Kaping bounced out to lead off the ninth. Pugliese then retired the final two Hutch batters, finishing the game with a strikeout of Zelm.

After struggling a bit early, the Outlaws ace completed the game retiring 12 of the final 13 Huskies hitters he faced - including seven straight to finish the game.

“It took me a little while to find it today, probably the first five or six innings,” said Pugliese regarding his outing, “but then I settled down and started going back to my game, throwing strikes and hitting my spots.”

Pugliese’s performance improved him to 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA in four State Tournament appearances over the past two seasons - he was 2-1 with a 2.11 ERA in last year’s tournament when Savage finished in fifth place.

The Outlaws will rely on Pugliese once again next week as the competition stiffens when they face the Mankato Twins. Following its 3-2 win over Cold Spring earlier Sunday, Mankato pushed it impressive record to 21-2.

Savage (33-9) will battle the Twins this Saturday - August 28 - at 5:00 p.m. in Willmar.

Notable individual efforts:
Savage Outlaws
~ Travis Pugliese: 9 IP, 1 ER, 7 Hs, 4 Ks, 2 BBs
~ Tony Peterson: 3-for-3, BB, R
~ Zack King: 3-for-3, 2B, SB
~ Ben Braten: 2-for-4, RBI, R
~ Tayler Rahm: 2-for-4, R

Hutchinson Huskies
~ Justin Juergenson: 2-for-4, 2B, R
~ Ryan Kaping: 1-for-4, 2B, RBI

**Note: I was a reporter for this game, witnessing most of it from the Savage dugout with an inning or two near the Hutchinson dugout. I also took several photos throughout the game. The pictures featured in this article are - from top-to-bottom - Travis Pugliese delivering a pitch in the first inning, Tony Peterson celebrating after scoring his team's go-ahead run in the sixth, Pugliese (post-game), Tony Peterson smacking a single to lead off the second inning, Zack King at first base after a bunt single in the third.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Small town ball at its finest, Dukes top Hawks in Dundas

As a baseball enthusiast, I’ve been to myriad stadiums both professional and amateur, but it's hard to top what the Dundas Dukes have just south of Northfield, Minnesota.

Sure, the $425 million stadiums, such as Target Field, are breathtaking and there will never be better baseball in Minnesota to watch than the Twins. But as far as amateur baseball goes, the town that tops out at a hair over 1,000 people produces one of the best atmospheres for baseball.

Dundas’ Memorial Park, host of the Dukes, welcomed in the Hastings Hawks Monday night for the Section 1B championship. Ace pitcher Charlie Ruud was on the mound for the Dukes and he was dealing.

The ex-Saint Paul Saints hurler was inches short of firing a no-hitter in leading Dundas to a 3-0 defeat of the Hawks.

Ruud struck out 13 Hawks batters and faced one more than the minimum while earning the shutout win. The game was a true pitchers duel as Ruud’s counterpart - Hastings’ David Vogelgesang - also went the distance.

Vogelgesang allowed just four hits to Dundas, but took the loss as the Dukes were able to put up three runs against him while his Hawks offense could barely touch Ruud.

Dundas’ filthy righthander zipped through Hastings lineup virtually the entire game. Ruud did not walk a batter, retiring the first 15 Hawks hitters before Jordy Horsch led off the top of the sixth inning.

Horsch hit a relatively routine ball to Dukes shortstop Josh Maus, but Maus could not come up with it and Horsch was able to reach first base safely.

From there, Ruud retired the following nine Hastings batters to keep his night hit-free. However, in the the top of the ninth, Hawks third baseman Sean Dube sent a medium-speed liner to shallow center and Carson Jones’ diving attempt at a catch came up a mere inch or two short.

Offensively, Dundas’ Tyler Jones hit a clutch two-out single to left in the third inning and a sacrifice fly in the fifth to drive in all three Dukes runs.

It was a wonderful night as I was able to meet up with an ex-baseball teammate, a current softball teammate - Jeremiah Leiviska and Jeff Brisbois, both currently relief pitchers for the Dukes - as well as Dundas public announcer Ira Carlson and a handful of Dukes die-hards.

Moreover, the atmosphere at Dundas’ Memorial Park was outstanding. From the hosts of home fans decked out in Dukes orange to Carlson’s crisp voice accompanied with personalized entrance music for each Dundas batter to several other terrific sights and sounds of this small town’s cozy baseball venue, the alluring aura was unavoidable.

As for the quality of baseball? Dundas has a high-caliber crop of players and is arguably as good as any amateur baseball team in the state.

Led by ex-St. Paul Saints Ruud (12-2, 1.07 ERA) and Todd Mathieson (.354 BA offensively, 5-1 with a 1.69 ERA pitching), former Los Angeles Dodgers farmhand Mike Ludwig (.370 BA, 19 doubles, 55 RBI) and St. Olaf senior Carson Jones (.444 BA, 44 runs), expect the Dukes to be a very tough out at this year’s Class B State Tournament.

Dundas will take its 38-11 overall record to Willmar for its first game of the State Tournament as the Dukes battle the Bemidji Mudcats (22-18) this Saturday at 11:00 a.m.

Notable individual efforts:
Dundas Dukes
~ Charlie Ruud: CG, W, 9 IP, 1 H, 0 Rs, 13 Ks, 0 BBs
~ Tyler Jones: 1-for-3, Sac Fly, 3 RBI
~ Brandon Roloff: 1-for-3, 2B, HBP, 2 Rs

Hastings Hawks
~ David Vogelgesang: CG, 8 IP, 4 Hs, 3 ERs, 5 Ks, 2 BBs

**Note: I went to this game as a fan and was able to absorb Memorial Park's wonderful atmosphere while spending some time in the press box meeting Ira Carlson and also some time greeting Jeremiah "J.J." Leiviska and some of the Dundas Dukes faithful near the Dukes dugout. I also kept score (with some assistance from Carlson), took some photographs throughout the night, and met with Dukes pitcher Charlie Ruud after the game. The photos featured in this article are - from top to bottom - a panoramic view of Memorial Field from the press box, Charlie Ruud (post-game), Ira Carlson announcing. Also, here (below) are some other photos from Monday night (including a picture of Northfield's KYMN radio team Tim Freeland (left) and Jeff Johnson (center), alongside Carlson in the press box):

Friday, August 13, 2010

Savage comes back against Burnsville, wins Section title

Cannon Valley League powers squared off last night for the Section 5B championship at Frederickson Field in Elko. But with tickets to the State Tournament already punched, the rival teams may have came out last night lacking a little punch.

“I was disappointed in the amount of fire we had early in the game,” remarked Savage skipper Travis Peterson, “but some hitting kind of cures that, we knocked a couple balls through holes, got some rallies going and were able to get guys up a little bit.”

Led by an early home run by designated hitter Ben Braaten, some strong pitching in the mid-to-late innings and a barrage of hits later in the ballgame, Peterson’s Outlaws were able to rally its way to a 7-4 victory over Burnsville to claim the Section title and earn a higher seed in the upcoming Class B State Tournament.

Savage will enter State as the Section 5 A seed, while the Burnsville (12-5 CVL, 17-9 overall) will enter the tournament as the B seed.

“It did lack a bit of intensity” said Roddy Hjort, Burnsville’s starting pitcher last night, about the game’s energy level, “not to say this game wasn’t important, but at the same time you already know you’re going to State.”

Not to mention Burnsville was coming off of two games the past two nights (including Wednesday night’s State Tournament berth-clinching win over Eagan) and were possibly a bit drained physically and emotionally, as well as short on pitching.

Hjort - usually the team’s second baseman - filled in for Bobcats manager Robby Wiens on the mound to start the game, despite having very little pitching experience. Hjort said he’s probably pitched about 10 innings over the last 15 years, but his team was in need last night.

“We knew we only had two [pitchers] ready to go tonight,” said Hjort following the game, “then Dan Mielke (one of the two pitchers) decided he couldn’t come because of work, and Robby gave me the thumbs up to go.”

Hjort did a respectable job - allowing two earned runs through four innings - and his Bobcats had the lead through much of the game. However, Savage’s Tyler Peterson came up with a pair of two-run hits to enable his brother - Tony Peterson - to earn the win as the Savage pitcher last night.

“When when got behind, [Tony] wasn’t too happy about it,” said Travis Peterson - the Outlaws manager and older brother of Tony - about Tony’s pitching effort, “[then] he switched into a different gear there and pitched a lot better the last half of his outing.”

Tony - Savage’s regular third baseman when not pitching - allowed three runs in the second inning after surrendering a home run to Burnsville’s Cory Eul, then had his team down 4-2 after the Bobcats added a run in the fourth. However, the burly righthander was able to work out of a key situation in the top of the sixth, and his team’s offense rewarded him in the bottom-half of the inning.

In the Burnsville’s top-half of the inning, Tony was able to get out of a one-out, two runners on jam by striking out Bobcats third baseman Zach Ryberg and retiring Eul for his first time in the game. Then, in the bottom of the inning, brother Tyler was able to drop a two-out hit into shallow right field to score two runs and give Savage a 5-4 lead.

Then, two innings later, Tyler came through again to add some key insurance runs for Savage.

Burnsville’s Trevor O’Shaughnessy was pitching for the Bobcats and Tyler came up with two outs and runners on first and second. The Outlaws shortstop battled through some tough pitches before finding one he liked and pounding it off the fence in deep straight-a-way center for a huge two-run double.

“[The count was] 3-2, he threw a couple good pitches that I fouled off,” said Tyler about his eighth-inning at-bat versus O’Shaughnessy, “[he] just left one up in the zone I could drive ... It got over [centerfielder Wiens’] head and it was a big hit.”

From there, Savage’s Danny Hansen and Brandon Walczak combined to close out the ninth to seal up the Section title. Next up, Savage will prepare to ship out to State.

The Outlaws will travel to Bird Island for its first game of the Class B State Tournament on Sunday, August 22 at 5:00 p.m. Burnsville will play its first game at State Sunday in Bird Island as well, scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start time.

Both teams’ opponents have yet to be determined.

This year’s State Tournament is being hosted by Willmar, Bird Isand and Spicer, Minnesota. The games are to begin Friday, August 20 and conclude with the State Championship game on Monday, September 6.

Notable individual efforts:
Savage Outlaws
~ Tyler Peterson: 2-for-4, 2B, BB, R, 4 RBI
~ Ben Braaten: 2-for-3, HR, BB, R, 2 RBI
~ Tony Peterson: 6 IP, W, 3 ERs, 4 Hs, 6 Ks, 2 BBs

Burnsville Bobcats:
~ Cory Eul: 2-for-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI
~ Roddy Hjort: 2-for-4, 2B, BB, 2 Rs

**Note: I was a PA / reporter for this game. I was able to be on the field for the first two innings, taking photographs, then I PA'd the game from innings 3-9. After the game, I did four interviews and shot some pictures of three of the game's best players (though only one, Ben Braaten's, turned out). The photos featured in this story are - from top to bottom - Savage's Tyler Peterson greeting Ben Braaten after Braaten's 1st inning home run, Burnsville' Roddy Hjort delivering a pitch, Savage's Tony Peterson pitching - followed by post-article pics - Savage's Braaten, Burnsville's Cory Eul rounding third base on his round-tripper in the 2nd.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trocke sets table, Dubanoski drives Burnsville to State

The Burnsville Bobcats offense was stymied through most last night’s Section 5B playoff game against Eagan’s Brandon Paetznick, except for its left side infielders that is.

“Trocke and Charlie, they were the only offense pretty much the whole game,” said Bobcats manager Robby Wiens, “they were the only ones hitting the ball, so you’ve got to be happy for them for doing that well.”

Shortstop Matt Trocke and third baseman Charlie Dubanoski’s offensive exploits led the Bobcats to a big 3-2 win over Paetznick’s Bandits at Frederickson Field in Elko and merits Burnsville (12-5 in league play, 17-8 overall) a trip to the Class B State Tournament next week.

Trocke set the table for Burnsville – getting on base with four
hits in four plate appearances – and Dubanoski drove in both the game-tying and game-winning runs with two big doubles.

The duo combined for six of Burnsville’s 10 hits on the night and backed outstanding relief pitching from Casey Jacobson, who earned the win last night.

“He’s been our stud all year,” said Dubanoski of 20-year-old Jacobson, “we all feel cool, calm and collected playing behind that kid.”

Trevor O’Shaughnessy started the game on the mound for Burnsville, but after the Bobcats got out to an early lead with a run in the first inning, the lanky lefthander surrendered a two-run homer to Eagan’s Derek Dietrich in the second.

“I’ve hit against O’Shaughessy a bunch and he usually throws a first pitch strike down the pipe,” said Dietrich of his second inning at-bat, “if he threw me a curveball, fine, I’m down 0-1, but I was sitting on that (fastball), knew it was coming , so [when it came] I had no choice but to hit it out.”

Dietrich’s home run gave the upstart Bandits (9-8 league, 16-16 overall) and manager / pitcher Brandon Paetznick the lead. The lead would last a little while, as Paetznick held a powerful Bobcats offense to one unearned run through the first four innings.

Then, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and Eagan still up 2-1, Trocke doubled down the right field line and Dubanoski stepped up to the plate.

Down 3-0 in the count, Paetznick was able to deliver strike one. The next pitch seemed nearly a foot outside, but Paetznick was granted the strike call there as well. However, in hindsight, the Eagan pitcher may have preferred the umpire ruled it ball four as – two pitches later – Dubanoski drilled an outside fastball deep to right center to score Trocke for the tying run.

Paetznick was able to strand Dubanoski at second by getting Burnsville’s clean-up hitter, Roddy Hjort, to roll a grounder to second. Paetznick’s Bandits then responded to the Bobcats fifth-inning run by immediately establishing a threat in the top of the sixth.

Burnsville’s ace – Jacobson, who pitched a complete game against Elko on Sunday – relieved O’Shaughnessy to begin the inning and was greeted by a solid single from Eagan’s Roy Larson.

The Bandits next batter, first baseman Ryan Sward, drilled a 2-2 Jacobson pitch deep to right-center field, but, as Sward was prepared to pull up and possibly round second base, Bobcats centerfielder Wiens came up with a huge run-saving diving catch.

“That was a game changer,” said Paetznick of Wiens’ catch, “we would have had [at minimum] runners on second and third with no out and probably scored at least one or two runs that inning and taken the lead.”

Instead of Sward’s drive possibly igniting a big inning for Eagan, things fizzled out for the Bandits.

During the following at-bat, with Jacobson facing Eagan’s Mark Tatera, Larson was pegged out at second by Bobcats catcher Chad Eul attempting to steal. The failed attempt hurt the Bandits as Tatera delivered a single to left and Eagan would have had a second chance at a rally. But with two outs now, Jacobson was able to get Eagan’s next batter, Dave Clements, to ground out to third to end the inning.

In the bottom of the seventh, with Eagan’s Paetznick still pitching, it was almost like a case of Déjà Vu. Just like the fifth inning, Paetznick retired the first two batters before Burnsville’s Trocke came to the plate. Also similar to the fifth, Trocke was able to get a hit – only this time it was an infield single to third. Then, sure enough, Dubanoski doubled again to score Trocke.

Another big Dubanoski hit, only this time the Bobcats slugger pulled the ball to left field and Trocke hustled in all the way from first.

”I saw that [the ball] got down the line [and] I was going no matter what,” said Trocke of his decision to round third and head home, “There were two outs and we needed the run badly, it was kind of do or die.”

With two perfect throws, Eagan may have had a play on Trocke, but third baseman Tatera could not cleanly handle the throw in from left and Trocke was able to cruise in with ease.

From there, the game would not end quietly as controversy ensued in the top of the eighth.

Eagan’s Tony Johnson was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Trent Anderson followed with a bunt attempt popped toward first base. Burnsville’s John Loeffler scooped up the ball on a short-hop and threw to second to force out the lead runner. However, the home plate umpire ruled it a catch and, after a brief argument from the Eagan managers, both Bandits base runners were called out.

“From the home umpire’s view, he thought it was caught, even though it wasn’t really close,” said Eagan manager Paetznick. “We argued a lot, and when you argue and [the umpires] are right you usually get tossed, so that shows you something right there.”

Jacobson followed the odd play and questionable call with a strikeout of Eagan’s Larson to end the eighth. Then, in the ninth, the hard-throwing righthander worked around a lead-off single by Sward with strike outs of Eagan’s Clements and Dietrich to end the game.

“Jacobson was throwing hard, he has a good curve,” said Dietrich, who struck out twice versus Jacobson after going 2-for-2 against O’Shaughnessy, “I wish [Burnsville] the best at state, we’ll get back at them next year.”

“He wanted to pitch the whole night and I wasn’t going to let him,” said Bobcats manager Wiens of his ace pitcher, Jacobson, who had pitched consecutive complete-game wins for Burnsville, “but when the guy’s been doing that good and wants to come in, I can’t say ‘no,’ and you saw what he did, he was just mowing them down.”

The loss brings Eagan’s 2010 season to an end. For Burnsville, the team’s quest in the State Tournament will begin in eight days, when the annual event is kicked off Friday, August 20 in Willmar and Bird Island.

Before heading to State, Wiens’ Bobcats will have a chance to exact revenge on their Cannon Valley League nemesis, the Savage Outlaws (who defeated Burnsville 3-2 on Monday), as the vaunted rivals play for the Section 5B championship and a higher State Tournament seed tonight at 7:30 in Elko.

Notable individual efforts:
Burnsville Bobcats
~ Matt Trocke: 4-for-4, 2B, 3 Rs
~ Charlie Dubanoski: 2-for-4, 2 2Bs, 2 RBI
~ Casey Jacobson: W, 4 IP, 0 Rs, 3 Hs, () Ks, 0 BBs

Eagan Bandits
~ Derek Dietrich: 2-for-4, HR, R, 2 RBI
~ Mark Tatera: 2-for-3, Sac Bunt, R
~ Brandon Paetznick: 7 IP, 3 R (2 ER), 9 Hs, 3 Ks, 1 BB

**Note: I was the PA for this game, thus the obstructed view for the game photos. I did, however, conduct post-game interviews and shoot pictures of three of the game’s best players (Burnsville's Charlie Dubanoski and Matt Trocke, Eagan's Derek Dietrich). The photos featured in this article are – from top to bottom – Burnsville’s Matt Trocke, Burnsville's Charlie Dubanoski, Eagan's Brandon Paetznick delivering a pitch to Burnsville's Robby Wiens, Paetznick pitching to Dubanoski, Eagan’s Derek Dietrich. Also, a picture of Burnsville's Casey Jacobson is shown next to the "Notable individual efforts" segment following the story.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hansen halts Elko bats, keeps Eagan alive

After last week, the initial seven Section 5B playoff teams were parsed down to four. Today, three teams remain, and after Jon Hansen’s performance last night the fifth-seeded Eagan Bandits (9-8 league record, 16-15 overall) are one of them.

“He pitched his heart out tonight,” said Eagan manager Brandon Paetznick, “that’s the best outing he’s had all year and he couldn’t have picked a better time.”

Staring elimination in the eye and facing the vaunted Elko Express in its home ballyard last night, Hansen led his visiting Bandits to a 3-1 win to give upset-minded Eagan a shot at the State Tournament when they battle the Burnsville Bobcats tonight.

“He did a nice job against us,” said Elko manager Terry Frederickson regarding Hansen, “[he] kept the ball down and had us off-balance all night.”

The Eagan win brings a subtle end to Frederickson’s Express team’s season. After a Class C State Championship in 2008 and a 7th-place finish in Class B last season, Elko - who finished its season with a 31-9 overall record - will not be making the trip to State this season.

Conversely, Paetznick and co-manager Billy Denet’s Bandits have an opportunity to make a miraculous post-season run.

“Coming in as the five seed, we’re definitely the underdogs,” said Denet about his Eagan squad, “but we’ve been playing really good baseball in the second-half [of the season] and I wouldn’t want to face us right now.”

The win was especially sweet coming against Elko's ace lefty, Brian Muell.

Denet said that since Elko became member of Section 5B (last season) the two teams had played each other five or six times and his team faced Muell for two or three of those game, however, his Bandits had yet to defeat either Muell or the Express altogether.

“Going against [Elko’s] tough lefty was a daunting task," said Denet of his team's batters facing Muell, "but I was happy to see us get to him for a few runs and get the win tonight.”

Muell and Hansen each held their opponents scoreless through the first three innings, but the Bandits bats would get to Elko’s starter in the fourth.

Centerfielder Tony Johnson led off Eagan’s big inning with a single to right. Johnson stole second - his second steal of the game - before Trent Anderson followed with a sharp single to center.

Runners on first and third with nobody out, Bandits clean-up hitter Roy Larson bashed a double off Muell to deep right-center. Johnson scored easily for Eagan’s first run and Anderson advanced to third.

From there, Muell was able to get the next two Bandits batters - Ryan Sward and Mark Tatera - to hit seemingly harmless ground balls. However, each would drive in runs as Sward grounded out to second scoring Anderson and Tatera’s dribbler to the left-side hole got through to score Larson.

That would be all Hansen needed as the Eagan starter ironed out some pregame jitters and was dialed in on the mound.

“I was a little nervous tonight for some reason, it’s been awhile since I’ve had to throw in a playoff game like this,” said Hansen of how he felt before the game, but once the game started he was able to get comfortable quick. “I’ve thrown well against Elko two times in the last two years so I knew I had a good shot, [but] I didn’t know I’d be quite so good.”

Scoreless early, Hansen allowed hits to three Express batters in the second inning. But catcher Anderson threw out Elko’s Jason Grimm to erase one base runner and help Hansen evade the possible threat.

After the second, the Eagan righthander did not allow a hit for the next six innings.

Elko hit the ball hard off Hansen a couple times, but some nice defensive plays kept the Express off the scoreboard. The best play being a leaping grab by Tony Johnson in center to snag a hard drive by Grimm.

“He was pretty much roping the ball all game,” said Johnson of Grimm, “but on that [play], I misread it [at first], I ran in a little bit, then brought myself back and had to jump. Luckily I caught it and was able to prevent [Elko] from having a big inning possibly.”

True, Johnson did misread the hit on contact, but Grimm’s shot was hit on a line and appeared to still be rising as Johnson was able to leap up and snag it out of the air. It was a jaw-dropping catch of a ball that was crushed in typical form by Elko’s powerful first baseman (Grimm) who would put a dent the scoreboard with a home run later on that night.

“He’s an amazing centerfielder,” said Paetznick regarding Johnson’s defensive capabilities, “he’s got great range and gets great reads, single-handedly he helps our team ERA go down by a lot.”

Johnson also had a nice night with the bat. The speedy Eagan two-hitter had the single that ignited the Bandits’ three-run fourth and also had a double, walk and two stolen bases, finishing his night 2-for-3.

“Hitting, [Johnson] started off slow this season,” said Paetznick, “but he’s picked it up [of late] and he’s picking the right time to get hot. He’s the spark plug in our offense and when he’s going we’re going.”

Another hero of the game for Eagan was its 6-foot-5-inch shortstop, Larson. The Bandits slugger drove in Eagan’s first run with that double in the fourth and Larson was later shown respect (and/or fear) by being intentionally walked in the fifth. Then, in the ninth, the lanky righthander was summonsed to the mound as a pitcher and he retired the only three Elko batters he faced to end the game.

For Elko, pitcher Josh Roiger kept his team in the game, hurling four scoreless innings in relief of Muell. But the Express bats could not come through.

Elko had brief hope in the ninth when Grimm chased Hansen from the game with his mighty clout that struck the scoreboard in right. However, Eagan’s Larson came in to close things out retiring Express batters Ash Larsen, Kyle Kraska and Dan Ellefson to earn the save.

“[We] played well, Jon pitched well,” said Larson of his team and starter Jon Hansen’s effort, “so when I came in I just wanted to do everything I could to make sure he’d get the win.”

The Bandits extend their season for an important game tonight against Burnsville. Manager Paetznick will take the mound as its starting pitcher against the Bobcats.

Burnsville will try to rebound from a controversial loss to arch-rival Savage on Monday night - when a questionable call was made at first base for the third out in the ninth as the possible tying run was crossing the plate. The Bobcats lost the game 3-2.

Tonight's winner earns a berth in the upcoming Class B State Tournament (which begins August 20) and also advances to the Section 5B championship game Thursday night. The losing team will be eliminated and thus end its 2010 season and postseason hopes.

First pitch is slated for 7:30 at Elko's Frederickson Field.

Notable individual efforts:
Eagan Bandits
~ Jon Hansen: 8 IP, 4 Hs, 1 ER, 3 Ks, 2 BBs
~ Tony Johnson: 2-for-3, 2B, BB, R, 2 SBs
~ Roy Larson: 1-for-3, 2B, IBB, R, RBI / 1 IP, SV, 0 Hs, 1 K
~ Mark Tatera: 2-for-4, RBI

Elko Express:

~ Josh Roiger: 4 IP, 2 Hs, 7 Ks, 0 BBs

~ Jason Grimm: 2-for-4, HR, R, RBI

**Note: I was the PA for this game, thus the game photos are obstructed by the backstop. However, I was able to conduct post-game interviews and take photos of three of the games best players (Eagan's Jon Hansen, Tony Johnson and Roy Larson). The pictures featured in this article are - from top to bottom - Eagan's Jon Hansen, Elko's Brian Muell delivers to Eagan's Jon Bauer, Hansen delivering a called third strike to Elko's Jeremy Chlan, Eagan's Tony Johnson, Eagan's Roy Larson.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Outlaws outlasts rival Bobcats for bid to State

Bitter rivals Burnsville and Savage battled out its third consecutive 3-2 thriller last night at Elko’s Frederickson Field.

The intense rivalry was magnified as the winner of last night’s game would earn a bid to the Class B State Tournament. And the winner ... by mere inches on a play at first to end the game ... was the Outlaws.

“I thought it was really close,” said Savage manager Travis Peterson about a bang-bang play at first base to end the game. “I thought he was out, I wanted him to be out, but if it was the right call? I don’t know, I’m not an ump.”

The play in reference was with two outs in the top of the ninth and Bobcats centerfielder Robby Wiens on third base. Burnsville’s David Keeney, one of its speediest runners, hit a grounder to third, substitute Savage infielder Dusty Otto handled the roller and fired to first to end the game - but not without controversy.

The call at first was immediately followed by severe scrutiny from several Burnsville team members and its fan base (many of whom were sitting in bleachers behind the fence near first base).

On the flip side, Savage’s Peterson was quick to credit his back-up infielder’s effort on that play.

“To go into a game ice cold and have a ball hit your way in that situation, that’s tough,” remarked the Savage skipper.

Mere minutes after the game, Burnsville manager Robby Wiens - obviously frustrated over the call - refused to comment on the play. His few remaining Bobcats teammates followed suit.

With the win, Peterson’s Outlaws (13-4 league record, 31-8 overall) earned a repeat trip to the Class B State Tournament, where last year they finished in 5th place.

Peterson credits Savage’s consecutive Section 5B playoff wins - last night and Sunday afternoon’s 3-2 win over Eagan (which combined have clinched them a spot in State) to his team’s strong pitching and defense.

“Phenomenal defense,” said Peterson following last night’s game, “we said before the [playoffs] started that it comes down to pitching and defense, we picked two really good games to play really good defense.”

Travis Pugliese pitched a complete game shutout Sunday versus Eagan. Savage played error-less defense in both games, including a key play by centerfielder Dylan Peterson in the top of the eighth inning last night.

“Dylan made a phenomenal catch,” remarked manager Peterson about his younger brother’s fence-crashing grab to rob Burnsville’s Charlie Dubanoski of an extra-base hit to lead off the eighth.

“If that ball were six feet over the wall, I think he was going to go right through it to try and catch it,” further exclaimed manager Peterson. “We needed that, that’s a game-changer right there.”

Dylan Peterson’s play enforced the Outlaws 3-2 lead that would eventually be sealed up by Savage relievers Brandon Walczak and Tony Peterson.

Outlaws starter Ben Turnwall merits a lot of the credit as well.

The burly righthander allowed a second-inning homerun to Burnsville’s Cory Eul that tied the game; however, Turnwall would settle in afterward and pitch well enough to earn the win.

In the second, after a walk to Bobcats first baseman John Loeffler, Eul turned on a 2-0 fastball and planted it beyond the fence in left-center.

From there, Turnwall struck out Burnsville’s Keeney as the first of eight consecutive Bobcats batters he would retire. Turnwall finished his night allowing just the two runs through six innings of work.

Savage’s Tayler Rahm helped back Turnwall’s outing in the bottom of the sixth with a clutch two-out single to left off Burnsville reliever Adam Emery.

“I was down 0-2, so that’s never good,” said Rahm describing the at-bat, “I worked it back to 2-2 and was actually looking for a fastball, (but) it was a change-up, I was a little out in front but I got enough of the barrel on it to put it out there to left.”

The hit scored a hustling Dylan Peterson from second as Bobcats leftfielder Cory Eul’s throw sailed wide to the right of his brother Chad Eul (Burnsville’s catcher).

Rahm’s RBI would stand as the game-winner as Savage pitchers Walczak and Tony Peterson combined for three very strong innings to finish the game.

Turnwall was awarded the win, Walczak posted three strikeouts in two perfect innings of work for the hold, and Peterson (who played the first eight innings at third base) worked around a lead-off walk to pick up the save.

“[Turnwall] pitched a really good game” said manager Peterson, “he threw strikes and made [Burnsville] swing the bats, exactly what we needed out of him.”

“I credit catcher Ben Braaten, I didn’t shake him off the whole game,” said Turnwall, praising the pitch calling of his receiver.

The hefty hurler was decently content with his outing and is very happy his team clinched a berth in the State Tournament. However, Turnwall also admitted to feeling a bit tight and nervous early on, and he feels he can definitely do better.

“I think all-around it was a great game for our whole team,” said the 23-year-old Burnsville native, “[But] personally, I can pitch better. I had to settle the butterflies down a bit, but we’ll get them [out of the way] at State.”

Savage will ride its ticket to the State Tournament in 10 days, when the annual event begins in Willmar and Bird Island August 20, but the Outlaws will also play for the Section 5B championship on Thursday night.

Peterson’s team could once again be facing their vaunted rivals (Burnsville) for the Section title.

The rivalry would be renewed once again as these two teams finished first and second in the Cannon Valley League this season, share the same home field, and have played three consecutive hotly contested 3-2 games - Burnsville defeated Savage by that score in their previous two meetings (July 22 and 29).

To get to Thursday, and having another shot at Savage, Wiens’ Bobcats will first have to overcome their frustration and defeat either Eagan or Elko tomorrow night.

Upset-minded Eagan (9-8 CVL, 15-15 overall) faces the 2008 Class C champion Express (8-4 CVL, 31-8 overall) tonight, with the winner advancing to face Burnsville. The winner of that game - tomorrow night’s - will also earn a trip to State.

Notable individual efforts:
Savage Outlaws
~ Ben Turnwall: W, 6 IP, 2 ERs, 5 Hs, 8 Ks, 2 BBs
~ Taylor Rahm: 2-for-5, R, RBI (GM-WINNER)
~ Brandon Walczak: 2 IP, 0 Rs, 0 Hs, HOLD
~ Tony Peterson: SV, 1 IP, 0 Rs, 0 Hs

Burnsville Bobcats
~ Cory Eul: 1-for-3, BB, R, HR, 2 RBI

**Note: I was a roving reporter for this game. I took score, made notes and shot several photos throughout the game. I also conducted three postgame interviews and shot photos two of the game's best players - Savage's Ben Turnwall and Tayler Rahm. The pictures featured in this article are - from top to bottom - pre-game manager's meeting (Savage's Peterson, Burnsville's Wiens, with the umpires and CVL commissioner Doug Johnson), Burnsville's #22 Cory Eul touching home plate after his home run in the 2nd inning, Savage's Tayler Rahm on third base (w/ Burnsville 3B Charlie Dubanoski behind him), Savage's Ben Turnwall delivering a pitch in the 2nd inning, post-game photos of Turnwall and Rahm.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Burnsville’s Jacobson, WIens derail Express in Elko

Elko had its hometown fans riveted early, but Burnsville’s Casey Jacobson slammed the brakes on the Express offense en route to a 7-2 Bobcats win.

“Casey’s had it figured out the whole year,” said Burnsville manager Robby Wiens regarding Jacobson’s effort, “throwing complete games in this league when it’s 100 degrees out, nothing compares to that.”

According to AccuWeather.com, the official temperature did not hit 100 degrees, but Wiens was virtually correct with his assertion as RealFeel (which is the accredited weather website’s equivalent to heat index) was charted between 98 and 101 degrees throughout the game.

Besides the scorching heat, Jacobson was also dealing with a 31-7 Elko team he was facing for his first time, and the game was on the Express’ home turf.

Jacobson succeeded the test pitching the whole nine innings for the Bobcats, striking out five Express batters and limiting the host team to just two runs.

His complete-game effort was important for the Bobcats as not only does the win (a second round Section 5B playoff win) give them an opportunity to earn a bid to the Class B State Tournament tonight, but Jacobson was also able to conserve his fellow Burnsville arms for tonight and possibly two or three more games this week.

“We don’t want to burn up a lot of pitchers,” said Bobcats skipper Wiens, “we’ve got to play tomorrow and maybe another game or two, so for him to out and there do that, saving our arms, that was big.”

“He did a nice job,” said Elko manager Terry Frederickson in regards to Jacobson. “he kept throwing right at us, and [Burnsville] played good defense, and that’s what it takes [to win].”

The Bobcats played spotless defense while two Elko errors led to three unearned runs for Frederickson’s squad. Two of those three runs were scored on a hit by Frederickson’s counterpart, Wiens, who was key cog offensively for the Bobcats last night.

“We couldn’t get him out,” remarked Frederickson.

Wiens was 3-for-3 with four RBI on the night, including a clutch two-run hit late in game.

The game began with Jacobson allowing back-to-back doubles to Elko’s Jeremy Chlan and Corey Grisim. However, Grisim was thrown out at third base as the Burnsville defense executed two perfect throws from its rightfielder and shortstop.

Down 1-0, the Bobcats offense responded quickly in the bottom of the first (note: Despite the game being played in Elko, Burnsville was the home team due to having a higher playoff seed).

Scott Lindner led off with a walk, Matt Trocke followed with a bloop single near the foul line in right. Two batters later, Roddy Hjort singled to left to load the bases with one out.

The next Bobcats batter, John Loeffler, worked a walk off Elko starter Glenn Parker to tie the game. Wiens followed with a hit to score Trocke and give Burnsville the lead. Then, the back breaker came as Bocats catcher Chad Eul sent a six-hopper up the middle that was able to scoot by Elko’s shortstop and second baseman for a two-run single.

“I think both of them could have had it,” said Frederickson about his infielders - second baseman Kyle Kalina and shortstop Chlan - on Eul’s seeing eye single, “but they both looked at each other like ‘who’s getting that one.’”

Up 4-1, Jacobson battled through the next three innings - allowing three hits, two walks and a hit batter - as Elko picked up a run to get the score within two; however, the Burnsville ace was able to settle in after conquering a key at-bat in the top of the fifth.

With Elko hoping to rally against Jacobson, Express two-hole hitter Grisim led off the inning and had a 3-0 count.

“That was a key count for me, I was thinking ‘you can’t walk the leadoff hitter, they score about 75% of the time, so I’ve got to give my defense a chance to help me out,’” said Jacobson of the at-bat versus Grisim, “ [On] 3-0 I just went down the middle and hoped he wasn’t swinging, then I was able to hit a couple of my spots and got him to pop it up, that was big.”

After Grisim popped to short, Jacobson was able to retire the next two Elko hitters as well for a clean fifth. Finding his groove, Jacobson proceeded to pitch a clean sixth as well.

Then, with Burnsville up 5-2, Wiens came through with a two-out single down the third base line in the seventh scoring Charlie Dubanoski and Hjort to put the game out of reach.

“Luckily [Elko’s third baseman] was playing a bit off the line and I snuck one by him,” said Wiens of his hit.

Jacobson followed with two more shutout innings to seal up the win for the two-seeded Bobcats (12-5 in Cannon Valley League play, 16-7 overall) and set up a big game tonight versus their bitter rivals - the Cannon Valley League regular season champion Savage Outlaws (13-4 CVL, 30-8 overall).

The winner of tonight’s game earns a spot in the Class B State Tournament (which begins August 20 at Willmar and Bird Island).

2008 Class C champion Elko will need to win its next game - tomorrow night versus Eagan - to prevent its season from coming to a sudden halt.

Notable individual efforts:
Burnsville Bobcats
~ Casey Jacobson: 9 IP, CG, W, 2 ERs, 8 Hs, 5 Ks, 3 BBs
~ Robby Wiens: 3-for-3, 4 RBI, Sac Fly
~ Roddy Hjort: 3-for-4, 2B, 2 Rs
~ Chad Eul: 2-for-3, 2 RBI, HBP

Elko Express
~ Jeremy Chlan: 2-for-3, 2B, 3B, R, BB
~ Dan Ellefson: 2-for-4, RBI

**Note: I was the scoreboard operator for this game. I wasn’t able to take many game photos, but I interviewed three people and took pictures of two of the game’s best players (Burnsville’s Casey Jacobson and Robby Wiens) afterward. However, the Wiens shot did not turn out well - I’m working to find a replacement photo as he should be pictured in this article after playing a key role for Burnsville offensively. The photos seen is this article are - from top to bottom - Burnsville's Casey Jacobson, Burnsville's Roddy Hjort facing Elko pitcher Glenn Parker, Burnsville's Hjort and Charlie Dubanoski after scoring on Wiens' 7th-inning single.

Pugliese cuffs Bandits, leads Outlaws in victory

Fifth-seeded Eagan hung with top-seed Savage for most of the game, but Outlaws pitcher Travis Pugliese held the Bandits bats at bay as he led his team to a 3-0 win yesterday in Elko.

“That’s why he’s our ace,” said Savage manager Travis Peterson about Pugliese’s performance. “In big games, he’s the one we go to. I thought he was outstanding today, especially in these conditions.”

In mid-90s humid heat at Elko’s Frederickson Field, Pugliese pitched a complete game, four-hit shutout as Savage (13-4 in Cannon Valley League play, 30-8 overall) defeated Eagan in its first game of the second round of the Section 5B playoffs.

On the other side of the diamond, Bandits ace Matt Johnson worked hard in going eight strong innings to keep his team in the game. The Eagan starter allowed 12 hits and four walks, but only three runs (two earned).

“He’s been great for us for years,” said Eagan manager Brandon Paetznick, regarding Johnson, “he throws strikes, mixes pitches well, and does exactly what he needs to keep guys like Savage down.”

With 11 singles, two doubles, four walks and a hit batsman for the game, the Outlaws had their scoring chances, but Johnson was able to induce three double plays and strand 11 base runners.

“We left a village on the base paths,” remarked Savage’s Peterson following the game.

Despite some opportunities, runs were at a premium in this game, especially for Eagan - who’s overall record fell to 15-15.

At one point, Pugliese retired 10 straight batters and 15 out of 16. But Savage only led 2-0 in the top of the sixth when the Bandits had their big chance to break through.

Eagan co-manager / outfielder Billy Denet led off with a drive to medium-depth left center. With a lot of hustle and a nifty slide, Denet was able to stretch his hit into a double.

Five batters later, after Bandits Tony Johnson and Roy Larson were able to work walks, Eagan’s dangerous five-hitter, first baseman Ryan Sward, came up with the bases loaded and two outs.

“That was really our big chance, we had up who we wanted,” said skipper Paetznick, “Sward’s been clutch for us all year, I thought he’d come through but he just got under it.”

Pugliese was able to get Sward to swing underneath a 1-0 offering and send a harmless fly to left field to end the Eagan threat.

Later, in the bottom of the seventh inning, Savage was looking to add some insurance runs. With runners on first and second and two outs, the Outlaws finally got a clutch hit.

Designated hitter Zach Harazin smashed a 2-2 pitch from Johnson hard up the middle for an RBI single to score pinch runner Brandon Walczak and put Savage up by three.

“[Harazin] came up clutch,” said Peterson about his DH, “Zach has quietly had a pretty good season with the bat and it really showed today.”

Harazin finished his day as one of five Outlaw batters with two hits. He and first baseman John Means were arguably the offensive stars of the day, with Means reaching base in all four of his plate appearances - going 2-for-2 with a walk, hit by pitch and an RBI.

Following Harazin’s hit, Savage had a chance to add more as a Dylan Peterson single loaded up the bases for pinch hitter Dusty Otto. But, as was the case throughout the game, Eagan’s Johnson was able to escape the jam by by getting Otto to pop up to the catcher.

No more runs were necessary, however, as Savage’s Pugliese finished what he started by retiring six of the last seven Bandits batters to earn the complete game victory.

“Pugliese, on the mound, has always given us a chance to win even when we’re not putting runs up on the board” remarked Harazin, “a shutout, that’s pretty characteristic of him.”

The Savage win - coupled with Burnsville’s win over Elko later on in the day - means the Outlaws will now face their nemesis Bobcats tonight with the winner earning a spot in the Class B State Tournament. Game time is slated for 7:30 at Elko’s Frederickson Field.

Eagan, on the other hand, is now in must-win mode if it wishes to keep its season alive. The Bandits will face the Elko Express tomorrow night at 7:30, this game is also in Elko.

Notable individual efforts:
Savage Outlaws
~ Travis Pugliese: 9 IP, CG, W, 4 Hs, 7 Ks, 3 BBs
~ Zach Harazin: 2-for-4, RBI
~ John Means: 2-for-2, RBI, HBP, BB
~ Taylor Rahm: 2-for-4, 2B, R, Sac Bunt

Eagan Bandits
~ Matt Johnson: 7 IPs, 2 ERs
~ Billy Denet: 1-for-3, 2B
~ Roy Larson: 1-for-2, 2B, 2 BBs

**Note: I was the PA for this game. While doing the PA, I did score the game and make notes, then conducted four interviews afterward. Also, I shot some game photos, but could not get great shots from inside a press box behind two nets and a backstop. I did, however, also take postgame photos of two of the game’s best players (Savage's Travis Pugliese and Zach Harazin). The photos featured in this article are - from top to bottom - Savage's Travis Pugliese, Eagan's Billy Denet after sliding by Savage second baseman Evan Walker for a double, Pugliese getting Eagan's Ryan Sward to fly out to left, Savage's Zach Harazin.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

After screwy start, Emery nails down Bobcats win in relief

Cannon Valley League powers, the Burnsville Bobcats, posted three unearned runs early, then struggled briefly before prevailing over winless Inver Grove Heights last night to cinch up a spot in the second round of the Section 5B amateur baseball playoffs.

Burnsville was down 4-3 early, but in came pitcher Adam Emery to quash any hopes the Diamond Kings had of pulling off the upset. After Emery stifled IGH’s offense, striking out eight consecutive DK bats at one point, the Bobcats bats began to pick up steam with a four-run fifth that led them to eventually win the game with ease (implementing the 10-rule rule, winning 14-4 after eight innings).

“That was a pretty good streak,” said Burnsville manager Robby Wiens of Emery’s ability to elude IGH bats for eight straight Ks, “nobody was even touching it.”

The game featured a wacky second inning in which an infield pop-up spelled doom for the Diamond Kings and control issues from Bobcats pitcher Scott Eul led to four IGH runs without the benefit of a hit.

With Inver Grove as the home team at Burnsville’s Alimagnet Park - this being the second game of a playoff series in which Burnsville played as the home team for game one - Diamond Kings starting pitcher Chris Vanderheisen was looking to get his team out of a one-out, runners on first and second situation.

A scoreless game, following a single and hit batsman Luke Hellquist was up for Burnsville. Vanderheiden was able to get the Bobcats designated hitter to fly to center for the second out. Then, the next at-bat was when the wackiness began.

On a full-count pitch, David Keeney sent a light pop-up behind the mound tailing to the left side of the infield. On a play where Inver Grove’s shortstop or third baseman were in better position to make the catch, pitcher Vanderheiden had to find his balance with the mound while attempting to make the grab. However, the ball fell off his glove and onto the ground for an error to allow Burnsville to take the lead.

The next Bobcats batter, leftfielder Scott Lindner, singled to right to score two more runs and Burnsville seized a 3-0 lead.

Another odd occurrence happened with the next batter as Matt Trocke lifted a routine fly ball to right and Inver Grove outfielder Ben Briesacher dropped a proverbial can of corn. However, Vanderheiden was able to get the next Bobcats batter out and Briesacher's error would not cost the Diamond Kings any runs.

The IGH offense responded in the bottom of the inning as Burnsville’s Eul could not find the plate.

After a groundout by Inver Grove’s Briesacher to begin the inning, IGH first baseman Jake Keefer was plunked by Eul and the following five Diamond Kings batters would reach base as well.

Eul had allowed six straight Inver Grove batters to reach base without allowing a hit - surrendering four walks and two hit batters.

Then Emery entered the game.

With bases loaded and one out, the Bobcats reliever was able to induce his first batter, IGH’s Aaron Stokke, into a ground ball to second for an apparent inning-ending double play. However, Burnsville second baseman Roddy Hjort bobbled the ball and the Bobcats could only get one out as the Diamond Kings’ Kent Anderson scored the go-ahead run.

Down 4-3 now with two runners on, Inver Grove’s burly three-hitter, Alex LaShomb, came up to the plate. However, LaShomb would not have a chance to add to IGH’s lead as Emery picked up his club by picking off Stokke at first to end the long and eerie second inning without incurring any further damage.

Burnsville tied the score in the top of the third, then LaShomb drew a walk to begin the bottom of the inning. From there, Emery took control, retiring his next eight batters - all on strikeouts.

“I just wanted to throw strikes after [Eul] was struggling,” said Emery in regards to his performance, “I knew that my stuff could get [the ball] over the plate, so I was just trying to get the job done.”

A bright spot offensively for Inver Grove came in the fifth as LaShomb finally ended Emery’s rein by singling to right with two outs.

“I knew that he was their best hitter,” said Emery of LaShomb’s at-bat, “I tried to do the same thing I did with the other hitters (mixing fastballs with curves and off-speed stuff). I threw him a couple fastballs and a couple change-ups, he hit a change-up low and away, there was nothing I could do about it, he’s a good hitter.”

“I think I got kind of lucky,” said LaShomb of the hit, which broke Emery’s strikeout streak, “I was sitting on something off-speed because I had put a good swing on one of his fastballs, and then he came with that change-up and I just hit it out to right field.”

LaShomb’s hit was only Inver Grove’s second of the game, and its would also be their last.

Up 11-4 entering the eighth inning, Burnsville put the final kibosh on the Diamond Kings by scoring three in the top half of the frame and pitching a 1-2-3 bottom to end the game via the 10-run mercy rule.

Burnsville’s victory advances them to the second round of the playoffs, which will begin for them with a 2:00 p.m. game versus the Elko Express this Sunday in Elko. For the Diamond Kings, the loss brings an end to the second season of Inver Grove Heights baseball.

Notable individual efforts:
Burnsville Bobcats
~ Adam Emery: 3.2 IP, 0 Rs, 1 H, 8 Ks, 1 BB
~ Scott Lindner: 3-for-4, 2 Rs, 2 RBI, 2 SBs
~ Roddy Hjort: 3-for-4, BB, 2 Rs, RBI

Inver Grove Heights Diamond Kings
~ Alex LaShomb: 1-for-3, 1B, BB

**Note: I was the PA for this game. While doing the PA, I also took score and made notes, then conducted interviews afterward. Also, I did shoot some game photos, but could not get great shots from inside a press box behind the backstop. I did, however, also take postgame photos of two of the game’s best players (Burnsville’s Adam Emery, Inver Grove’s Alex LaShomb). The photos featured in this article are - from top to bottom - Burnsville’s Adam Emery striking out IGH’s Jake Keefer in the 3rd, Adam Emery, Alex LaShomb.