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.

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