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Baseball: Offense carries Raptors past Eastview in section playoffs

Shortstop Max Gamm throws to first base to complete a double play in East Ridge’s 8-4 victory on May 29. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Pitcher Graham Netten throws to home during a section victory against Eastview. Netten was the game’s winning pitcher. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

You wouldn’t be able to tell if the East Ridge baseball team was feeling any pressure before the start of May 29's Class 4A, Section 3 second-round tournament game against Eastview.

The Raptors jumped out for six runs in the first three innings of an 8-4 victory on Memorial Day evening in Dundas.

The key to their performance? Lighthearted jokes.

“We really like to loosen up before games, have fun, laugh,” said Brendan McKevitt, who went 3-for-4 at the plate and scored three runs. “When we do that we usually play better.”

The Raptors scored two runs in the first inning and four more in the third to turn down the pressure in the section tournament game. Sophomore Cam Hunter drove home half of the third-inning rally with one swing of the bat. He turned on a pitch and hit it over the left field fence for a two-run home run.

“It was low and inside,” said Hunter, who was 3-for-4 with three RBIs. “I just brought the fat head of the bat and hit it out.”

Max Gamm and Ty Okada each also collected two hits and scored two runs in the section win.

After watching the Raptors score eight runs, head coach Brian Sprout commented on their simple mindset at the plate.

“I think their approach was great,” Sprout said. “They were looking to do the right thing with the ball. Staying up the middle as much as possible, and then seeing the ball and hitting the ball.”

East Ridge started the Class 4A, Section 3 tournament with a 6-2 win against Hastings on May 25. With the May 29 win against Eastview, the third-seeded Raptors are headed to the winner’s bracket finals to face fifth-seeded Rosemount. The Irish defeated top-seeded Burnsville 6-1 earlier in the day on May 29.

Outside distractions can become more common as the section tournament gets closer to its conclusion. Sprout's message to his team before Friday's game is to keep a clear mind.

“I think basically we’ve got to take care of us, and keep our approach simple the way we have,” Sprout said. “And compete like we have been, too. Again, take care of us and not all the junk that goes along with it.”