On a hot, humid afternoon in Jordan, the Dundas Dukes and Eagan Bandits’ bats were cold in the early going.
The game was scoreless through four innings. But the Dukes rallied for a three-run fifth and never looked back.
Behind the stellar pitching of Todd Mathison and a clutch hit by Carson Jones, Dundas defeated Eagan 5-3 to keep its season alive and extend its Class B state tournament hopes.
“I’ve watched him for a lot of years and that’s the best he’s ever been” Dundas centerfielder Carson Jones said of Mathison.
|Dundas CF Carson Jones, takes his lead at first base|
Lined up directly behind his starting pitcher, centerfielder Jones had a perfect view of Mathison, who treated him and his fellow Dukes to a 13-strikeout, complete game performance against the 22-win Bandits.
“My fastball was popping, two-seam was moving, they were swinging early and I was getting my pitcher’s pitches put in to play” Mathison said of his performance today.
Eagan hitters were found shaking their heads one after another. Frustrated by perhaps an arguably extended strike zone today, Bandits batters either looked quizzical from being rung up or contemptuous toward the home plate umpire having flailed at a pitch they struggled to reach.
Dundas ran into trouble in the bottom of the fourth. With Bandits leadoff hitter Tony Johnson at first following a single, Eagan second baseman Louie Lachapelle faced a 3-2 pitched from Mathison. The pitch appeared outside of the right-hand hitter’s grasp, as he took the pitch for a called third strike. Confused over the call, LaChappelle let the umpire feel his ire as he jaunted back to his dugout.
Eagan’s next hitter, catcher Mark Tatera, was at the plate, when the Bandits sent its speedster Johnson to second. Dukes catcher Pat Wadzinski delivered a perfect throw but shortstop Todd Maus could not hold onto it and Eagan had a runner in scoring position with one out. Eagan’s threat quickly expanded as Tatera hit a grounder to short that could not be handled by Maus, leaving Eagan with runners were at first and third with one out.
|Dundas 1B on-deck in the 8th|
In position to surrender the game’s first run, Mathison faced Eagan cleanup hitter Roy Larson, who smashed a bullet to center. But Dukes centerfielder Carson Jones snatched the liner and made a strong throw cut-off by Mathison to keep the Johnson at third. Mathison then sqeaked out trouble, retiring Eagan’s Matt Fielder on a close play at first to keep the Bandits scoreless.
Eagan would regret not being able to score there, as the Dukes were poised to swing its bats in the fifth.
A double, walk and hit batsman led to a bases-loaded, one-out situation for Dukes first baseman Steve Loos. Loos lofted a fly ball to left to score the game’s first run.
Eagan pitcher Neil Kunik was now faced with Dundas’ four-hitter, Carson Jones. On a 0-1 pitch, Kunik threw a costly wild pitch, advancing Duke runners to second and third. Jones cashed in on the gaffe, sending a single to right to plate two runs.
|Jones at bat in the 8th|
“It was a 2-1 pitch and I was looking for a fastball,” Jones said. “He threw it inside and I got jammed a little bit and was able to just fist it into right center.”
Jones’ contact would prove huge as that two-run hit propelled his pitcher’s performance through the next four innings.
“It’s a heck of a lot easier to pitch with a lead” Mathison said, given a three-run lead on Jones’ hit. “What it allowed me to do was throw a lot of fastballs and attack the zone more later in the game knowing a solo home run doesn’t affect us.”
Mathison allowed a run in the bottom of the fifth, but followed it up with three scoreless frames.
An eighth-inning rally for Dundas resulted in two runs of valuable insurance for the Dukes.
Down 5-1, Eagan would not go down without a fight. With one out in the ninth, Tatera slashed a single to right. Bandits imposing force Larson was at the plate again. Having hit the ball hard for an out earlier, Larson won the battle against Mathison this time.
Larson woke up Eagan faithful – and everyone in attendance for that matter – delivering a 360-foot bomb onto the railroad over the fence in left-center.
“I just hung a slider,” Mathison said, describing the pitch to Larson, “it started in and broke over the middle.”
“I’ve played against Roy in college and he’s a guy if he gets the right pitch he can do some damage,” he added. “I tip my hat to him … but in the end it didn’t cost us the game."
The bases empty now, Mathison was able to mitigate further damage, promptly retiring the following two batters to stymie any final hope the Bandits’ had.
Dundas’ win sets up an epic matchup next weekend. The Dukes (28-9) will face the reigning champion Springers of Cold Spring (26-6), who defeated the Austin Blue Sox in its first-round game.
The game takes place Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Belle Plaine’s Tiger Field.