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.

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