Sunday, July 10, 2011

Eagan pounds Lakeville in reversal of fortune

Just ten days after the Lakeville Athletics routed the Eagan Bandits at Goat Hill Park, the Bandits moseyed in onto Lakeville’s home turf yesterday and returned the favor.

Eagan pitcher Matt Johnson started the June 29 game and was hammered from the get-go - allowing four first inning runs in a 16-8 loss. Johnson made the start again as the two teams met yesterday, only this time he pitched seven shutout innings and his Bandits trounced the Athletics 14-1.

“I don’t know, I just didn’t have it [last week],” Johnson said of his previous performance against Lakeville. “I think what it comes down to today is they were hitting right at some guys and we were playing better defense than last time.”

“[Also] I was locating it a bit better today, so that helped; and my curveball was sharper today,” he added.

The Athletics tallied 20 hits in its win at Eagan. Yesterday, Johnson held Lakeville to a mere two hits. Conversely, five Bandits batters achieved multiple-hit days to lead its team’s offense.

The Bandits jumped out of the gates early with four first inning hits and three runs.

Lakeville starter Jeff Farr allowed a single to Eagan’s Tony Johnson. The next batter sacrificed himself to get Johnson to second, but Farr threw wildly to set up runners on second and third with no outs.

The error proved costly as Eagan catcher Trent Anderson followed with a solid drive to center for a two-run single. As it turned out, just three batters into the game, Eagan had all it needed to emerge with the victory.

The Farr error would be the first of five on the day for Lakeville. The team also botched a rundown in the third inning.

Farr had Eagan’s Paul Hallgren picked off first base, but as the Athletics infielders played catch with one another the Bandits’ Adam Carl came in to score. What could have been a three-run deficit was instead a 5-0 hole thanks to the errant play by Lakeville’s defense.

Two innings later, Eagan’s Derek Dietrich crushed an RBI-double to right-center. Two batters later, Joe Eiden singled to center to drive in another run.

There were also control issues with Farr, who finished his day after six innings with a line of 11 hits and four walks allowed, surrendering seven runs (six earned). Athletics relief pitcher Ben Elliot had an even rougher outing.

Following a Dietrich walk in the seventh, Hallgren pelted an Elliot offering deep to left center, hitting the fence on one hop for an RBI double.

“When you come out and you’re up by a few runs, you can relax and try to put a good swing on the ball,” Hallgren said. “[Elliot] grooved me a nice pitch and I put a good swing on it.”

If Eagan’s lead wasn’t already strong enough, Hallgren’s blast all but ensured defeat as the Bandits increased its lead to a commanding 8-0 advantage.

“He’s been coming around really well for us,” Johnson said of his leftfielder, Hallgren, who finished with three hits and two RBI.

“[Hallgren’s] had a couple clutch hits for us these last few games,” Johnson said. “He works hard everyday, he’s always one of the first guys out here ... So it’s good to see him coming around and getting some extra-base hits for us.”

Hallgren was one of three Bandits hitters with three hits as Eagan amassed 15 hits in total.

It was a disastrous final frame for Lakeville, as the Bandits padded its lead with six runs on two hits in the ninth.

The Athletics defense committed two errors to begin the inning. Elliot could not find his control from there, walking three straight batters. A pair of hits and another Lakeville error enabled Eagan to score its final three runs as the Bandits sent 11 batters to the plate before a fielder’s choice mercifully quelled any further damage.

Blocking several balls in the dirt and scrambling after wild pitches, it was a hard day’s work for Lakeville catcher Kevin George.

“It’s brutal anytime when you spend a long time in the field and not a long time on the bench,” Geroge said. “Without stringing any hits together [on offense] and [making] a lot of errors in the field, it’s not a winning combination.”

The two hits Lakeville achieved were a solid single to left by Eddie Golom in the third and an infield hit for Mark Berger in the seventh. Although it could be said that George hit the ball the hardest for his team’s offense yesterday.

The Lakeville cleanup hitter finished his day 0-for-4, but hit the ball on the screws for a liner to center in the second and pounded a pitch from Eagan’s Neil Kunic in the eighth. With the bases loaded, George absolutely crushed a line drive toward the right field line. However, Bandits rightfielder Dietrich made an outstanding running catch.

“I was thinking triple off the bat, but the guy made a nice play,” George said. “It’s tough to see that get caught, but that was the way the whole day went. Everything we hit hard was right at someone and everything they hit found a way to drop in.”

Dietrich’s web gem robbed George of extra bases and likely three RBI. Kunic, who also struggled with control, hit Lakeville’s next batter - John Degerness - to score the Athletics lone run.

All in all, it was a fantastic game for the Bandits and a dreadful day for Lakeville.

The Athletics look forward to quickly turning the page as the team welcomes the Minneapolis Rocks to its Lakeville South home field today at 5:00.

**I was both the public announcer (PA) and scoreboard operator for the game, thus was unable take in-game photos. The photos displayed in the story (from top-to-bottom) are of Eagan's Matt Johnson and Paul Hallgren, and Lakeville's Kevin George. Johnson and Hallgren were two of Eagan's top performers. Despite going hit-less for the game, George played well in defeat and offered to be his team's spokesperson afterward.

**Notable individual efforts:
SP Matt Johnson: W, 7 IP, 2 H, 6 Ks, BB
CF Tony Johnson: 3-for-5, 3 1Bs, R
C Trent Anderson: 2-for-5, 2B, 1B, BB, 2 RBI, 3 Rs
1B Ryan Sward: 3-for-5, 3 1Bs, BB, RBI, 2 Rs
LF Paul Hallgren: 3-for-5, 2B, 2 1Bs, BB, 2 RBI, R

SS Eddie Golom: 1-for-4, 1B, HBP, R

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