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Sam Kastner slides into third during East Ridge's 17-1 win over Eagan in the first round of the legion playoffs at Dundas on Wednesday. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)

Raptors romp Eagan in legion playoff opener

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Raptors romp Eagan in legion playoff opener
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Drew Molin knew he was headed toward more history -- he didn’t need a reminder.

Molin did not allow a hit through the first four innings of the East Ridge Legion squad’s playoff opener against Eagan in Dundas.

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But just prior to the start of the fifth inning, shortstop Sam Cobbs made several references to the no-hitter -- a cardinal sin in the hyper-superstitious sport.

Molin was doomed.

“And two batters later they got a hit,” Molin said.

Molin blamed Cobbs for the loss of the no-hitter, which would have been his second of the summer after he no-hit Forest Lake earlier in the season. Moments after the Eagan hit, Molin stared Cobbs down, though he couldn’t stay overly angry.

Because despite the loss of the no-no, the Raptors cruised to a 17-1 seven-inning victory over Eagan on Wednesday.

Cobbs played a big role in East Ridge’s offensive explosion. He collected three hits, including a three-run blast that placed an exclamation point on a 12-run sixth inning that blew the game wide open..

“It was fun to be on the good side of it,” Raptors coach Tyler Welch said of the monster outburst in the sixth.

The offense, which has been hit or miss for East Ridge throughout the summer, was all hits and no misses Wednesday. Nine different Raptors collected hits as East Ridge posted 19 base knocks.

“If we can swing it like that, we’ll be OK,” Welch said. “It was more about our approaches, our approaches were good. If you don’t have bad approaches and swing at bad pitches, you get yourself in good counts, so it’s easier to hit. We definitely did it one-through-nine in the lineup, too, which was good.”

Molin said he didn’t expect to have that type of offensive support, as East Ridge scored runs in five of the seven innings played.

“It made it really easy on me as a pitcher,” Molin said. “All I had to do was throw strikes.”

He did more than that, as he mowed down the Eagan order.

And though Molin was disappointed to lose the no-hitter, for East Ridge’s long-term health in the double-elimination playoffs, its ace giving up a hit might have been for the best.

Welch said he would have had to let Molin go for the no-hitter had Molin kept it in tact. But after he gave up a hit and the Raptors built a massive lead, it was easy to take him off the hump to save Molin’s arm. The ace threw just 68 pitches in the victory, meaning he could pitch if needed on Saturday or Sunday.

“It’s nice to get out of there with a big win and to be able to save some arms and get it over with without having to finish all nine,” Welch said. “[Molin] bounces back pretty good, too. He’ll definitely be able to throw again if we keep playing like this.”

No one expects 19 hits on a game-to-game basis, but the East Ridge offense is capable of posing crooked numbers on any given day.

“If we can get hot, I think we can compete with anybody,” Molin said, “even like Lakeville North.”

The Raptors will soon find out if Molin is right, because they’ll take on top-seeded Lakeville North on Thursday at St. Olaf.

After Wednesday’s victory Welch said he still didn’t know who would start against Lakeville North, but he had it narrowed down to two options -- it will either be Carter Stoehr or Cal Kellner.

“We were going back in forth in the dugout once we had the big lead,” Welch said. “If we have to use both of them to win [Thursday], we’ll use both of them.”

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