Baseball: East Ridge wins opener in walk-off fashion
East Ridge 2, River Falls 1 (Eight innings)
When Cam Hunter took the mound on Friday night, he never thought he'd be the hero on the mound and at the plate. After six and one-third innings, Hunter reached his pitch count limit and the score was still tied 0-0.
The game needed an extra inning, but Hunter only needed one. When he came up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, the bases were loaded with one out and River Falls was leading 1-0.
The first pitch of Hunter's at-bat was high and inside, but he got out of the way. He was waiting on the second pitch and it was a high pitch down the heart of the plate.
Hunter swung and the sound of ball connecting on the bat rang throughout the field. The ball traveled to the warning track in left center, but it was far enough for the two runs to score and win the home opener in walk-off fashion.
After stepping on home plate, the Raptors ran after Hunter to celebrate the 2-1 win to start the season.
"The first win of the season really affects how we play the rest of the season," Hunter said. "It gives us motivation and confidence heading into conference play."
It was a quick game as both teams wouldn't allow a runner to cross home plate for the seven innings of play. It was a pitcher's duel with a strong defense behind each arm.
Hunter started the game for East Ridge and pitched 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five batters and gave up four hits and one walk.
"Cam did the job for us on the mound," said head coach Brian Sprout. "We just have to find ways to get on base more."
East Ridge had four hits as a team in the first seven innings with two more hits recorded in the eighth inning. Along with the hits, there were three walks and only two strikeouts.
Sprout said he liked to see each of the players make contact and make the defense work for an out. He wants to see some of those balls fall through for a hit and get more runners on base.
The Raptors understand how tough the Suburban East Conference will be this upcoming season and they will never have an easy game during conference play.
"We know each team will be tough in the conference season, but we're ready for the challenge," Hunter said.
East Ridge will have its first conference test on Wednesday, April 10 as the Raptors travel across the road to Woodbury and play their in-town rivalry. The game starts at 4:30 p.m. on that Wednesday.
St. Paul Johnson 11, New Life Academy 1
After a close loss to Minnehaha Academy on Thursday night, New Life Academy came back to the field on Friday night against St. Paul Johnson.
The Eagles couldn't record its first win of the season as St. Paul Johnson won 11-1.
St. Paul Johnson had a strong two innings to start the game with three runs in the first and five runs in the second to record eight runs.
Cooper Amon recorded the RBI for the Eagles as he went 1-for-3 in the game. New Life used three different pitchers in the game.
The Eagles started with Joey Bucsko and followed with Colin Quirk and Riley Grohn.
New Life will take on St. Agnes at home on Monday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m. before a busy week ahead.
Minnehaha Academy 3, New Life Academy 1
Minnehaha Academy and New Life Academy are used to seeing each other every season, but typically it's at the end of the season in the section finals.
The two teams have faced off the last three years for a spot in the state tournament and each time Minnehaha has earned the victory.
On Tuesday, Minnehaha kept that winning streak going to start out the season as New Life kept it close all game until the final inning. Minnehaha captured the 3-1 win with some offensive production in the first inning and the last inning.
"We knew Minnehaha was going to be a tough team to start out the season," said head coach Dave Darr. "It was a great game and we'll learn from this game heading into the rest of the season."
The game started off fast for Minnehaha as a leadoff double led into a run to take a 1-0 lead. After the first batter, Cooper Falteisek was dominant on the mound for the Eagles.
He pitched the entire seven innings and struck out six batters. He also had a strong defense behind him that made some keys out to end innings and lower Falteisek's pitch count.
"It's great to trust that if the ball is hit, my teammates are there to back me up," Falteisek said. "They had a great night defensively and hopefully it'll carry into the upcoming week of games."
This outing made Darr confident about the upcoming season with his leader on the rubber.
"When Cooper goes we will compete with anybody," Darr said. "We didn't quit and we kept battling every inning."
The Eagles were facing off against two Division I pitchers with Minnehaha on Thursday, but Falteisek was happy to see the plate discipline from every batter on New Life's lineup. New Life had seven walks throughout the game, which caused the starting pitcher to throw more pitches every inning.
When the Eagles made contact, Darr said he was happy with how hard it came off the bat. Unfortunately for New Life, the ball went right to a Minnehaha player to record the out.
The one run for the Eagles came from the bat of Andrew Kroohn who hit the sweet spot of the bat and drove it to left field. Cooper Amon was at second and came in to score the tying run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Once the top of the seventh came, Minnehaha found some grass in the outfield and were able to record a couple runs to capture a lead. New Life fought in the bottom of the inning, but weren't able to get the game tied.
Even though it was a loss, Falteisek looked at the night as an opportunity to gain some confidence heading into a busy week. Falteisek said that Minnehaha is a tough team and being able to compete with them until the last inning should build some confidence amongst the Eagles.
New Life has a busy week with four games in seven days, but Falteisek and the rest of the Eagles are excited for the start of the baseball season.
"We just need to look at it one game at a time," Falteisek said. "It should be a fun upcoming season."
New Life Academy will take on St. Paul Johnson on Friday, April 5 and will host St. Agnes on Monday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the HealthEast fields.
Woodbury 15, North St. Paul 0
Adam Mazur took a lap around the outfield fence before he threw his bullpen session on Tuesday night.
That lap has become a step in his pregame ritual anytime he's the starting pitcher for Woodbury. Head coach Kevin McDermott gave him the ball to start the regular season for the Royals as they took on North St. Paul at Northwestern College.
The lap in the outfield allows Mazur to focus and lock in on his responsibilities on the mound that night.
After the lap, Mazur was locked in from the first batter and it continued for five innings as he pitched his first career no-hitter to give Woodbury a 15-0 win to start the season.
"It was really exciting since it's the first of my career and life, but it still hasn't really hit me yet," Mazur said. "I'll give it 24 hours and by Thursday I'll be locked in and ready to go for the next game."
Mazur was untouchable and catcher TJ Rinehart said it's a moment he'll never forget either. Rinehart has been catching Mazur for many years, so the two understand each other and it makes for a strong pitcher-catcher duo.
Rinehart said he knew Mazur was pumped up for Tuesday night and he just kept putting down one finger to signal the fastball. Many of the North St. Paul batters weren't able to catch up to the fastball, which allowed Mazur to strike out 11 of the 15 outs.
"These kids can't hit the fastball, so we're going to call it all day until they can touch it," Rinehart said. "We threw in a couple curveballs in there to mix it up, but he sat them all down. It was a fun night."
Along with a no-hitter on the mound, Mazur had a strong offensive production from the Royals. From the leadoff hitter to the No. 9 hitter, everyone made contact and reached base.
Seven different players recorded an RBI on the night, which makes McDermott excited to see the talent across the board and the depth the Royals have this season. Mazur helped himself out with three RBI and going 1-for-2 with a single, walk and a sacrifice fly.
The Royals scored one run in the first to grab a lead with the help of Quinn Krueger's RBI triple. Then, a scoreless second inning led to a nine-run third inning for Woodbury.
The Royals had 14 batters come to the plate in the third inning and everyone did their job. They reached base and ran the bases strong, so the next batter could knock them in for a run.
Brock Rinehart had a big hit in the third when the bases were loaded. He hit a double that knocked in all three runners to widen the lead even more.
"I thought we did a great job with sticking to our game plan as a team offensively," McDermott said. "We only had one strikeout, which meant our players were fighting at the plate and getting on base in many different ways. It was great to see to start off the season."
Mazur and TJ Rinehart agreed that this type of win gives the team confidence because everything connected for the Royals on Tuesday night. Now, they just want it to translate into the next game and future games, especially when conference games come up.
The next game up is a conference game as well as a big rivalry within the city of Woodbury. The Royals will be hosting East Ridge on Wednesday, April 10 at 4:30 p.m.
As for Mazur, he was one walk away from a perfect game. After the game, he joked with his teammates about his sights on a perfect game.
Now, his sights are on earning a conference win next week against the Raptors.
"There was a lot of energy from the players tonight and we need to bring that into every game this season," Mazur said.