The Blue Earth Pirates used a late grand slam by player/manager Lee Hodges to pull away from the Wells Wildcats 16-6 last Sunday in Blue Earth.
The Pirates could not have asked for a better matchup in the second round of the league playoffs.
In the third meeting of the year with the Wildcats, who are responsible for the only two losses on the Pirates schedule during the regular season, the squad rose to the occasion, according to Hodges.
“It really didn’t make a difference who we faced,” he says. “Yeah, it did feel good to beat Wells, but we played great ball and found a way to win. It doesn’t matter who we play, the end goal for us is always the same. Just win.”
Hodges worked 5 2/3 innings for the win, with Cody Sukalski finishing the sixth and seventh innings.
Things got interesting in the bottom of the second inning. Sukalski was hit by a pitch after he called time. And, on the very next pitch, Wildcat’s pitcher, Nick Fure, threw over Sukalski’s head.
Tempers began to flare on both sides as a result of the at bat. Sukalski was walked and eventually came around the base paths to score.
The Pirates used back to back walks to drive in Sukalski.
Next, John Franta stepped up to the plate with one out and hit a hard liner to short. Two runs ended up scoring on the play because of two throwing errors on the Wildcats.
T.J. Schmidtke recorded an RBI with a sacrifice fly to bring in the fourth run of the inning for the Pirates.
The Wildcats answered in the top of the third inning with a single run of their own. A wild pitch brought in a Wildcats base runner to narrow the score to 4-1.
However, Kane Malo looped a slider over the left field fence for a two-run home run to expand the home team’s lead to 6-1.
Dustin Dylla came on for the Wildcats in relief of Fure.
The back and forth run scoring continued with a first-pitch Wildcat homerun supplied by Dylla.
Hodges composed himself, regained his control and struck out the last two hitters to end the inning for the Pirates.
In the fifth inning, the Wildcats added another run because of a throwing error by Aaron Wendt.
Wildcat right fielder Todd Rasmussen, who was a 2002 Blue Earth Area graduate, scored the run making the score 6-3. He finished 2 for 3 with an RBI.
However, Malo stopped any momentum by snagging a liner out of the air and throwing out a runner at first base, which ended the inning with minimal damage.
The Pirates’ bats continued to be hot and they added four more runs in the fifth. Schmidtke slapped a single through the infield and brought home two runners.
Up 10-3, the Pirates were on cruise control until the Wildcats pounced and produced three runs in the sixth inning Wells had three consecutive two-out hits off Hodges, ending his day.
After three consecutive singles from T.J. Stallman, Franta and Schmidtke loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Pirates set the stage for Hodges.
He nailed the Pirates 12th hit of the game over the right field fence, putting the game out of reach, 16-6.
Hodges led the Pirates with four RBIs going 1 for 2 with two walks.
Malo, who was 2 for 3 with a walk, had three RBIs and Schmidtke finished 1 for 3, with a walk and also three RBIs.
Three runs were not credited as RBIs for the Pirates because of errors. The Wildcats struggled and committed five errors in the game.
“Our bats have been really hot as of late,” Hodges says. “It couldn’t come at a better time.”
The win clinches a spot in the District Tournament. The Pirates will play on Sunday, July 27, against the winner of the Wells and Minnesota Lake game. A victory will solidify a No. 1 seed for the Pirates.
Pirates 13, Spiders 0
The Blue Earth Pirates proved why they were the No. 1 seed in their first league playoff game on July 19, by defeating the Cleveland Spiders 13-0 in seven innings.
Pitcher Aaron Wendt had a streak of nine no-hit innings going back to his last game.
He pitched a complete game, had a season-high 13 strikeouts and only allowed two hits.
Wendt started the scoring early for the Pirates by driving a ball down the left field line, which scored John Franta from second base.
Following Wendt, Lee Hodges doubled and brought in two RBIs.
T.J. Schmidtke hit a towering home run to center to lead off the bottom of the third inning.
Not to be outdone, Wendt followed Schmidtke’s homer with one of his own, bringing the Pirates lead to 5-0.
Zac Dahl almost hit a third home run of the inning, but his deep shot hit off the left field fence, which scored another run.
Dallas Barslou then lined a single up the middle to bring in the Pirates’ seventh run of the game.
Wendt gave up his first hit in the fourth inning, but regrouped and didn’t allow another hit until the top of the seventh inning.
Wendt hit a blooper to right center field and brought home another runner in the bottom of the fourth inning. Hodges doubled next and Bob Olson brought home Wendt and Hodges with a single of his own.
The Pirates, up 10-0 after four innings, scored three more in the sixth inning.
Wendt finished a perfect 4 for 4 with two doubles and a home run and three RBI.
Hodges was 3 for 4 with three doubles and four RBI.
Schmidtke was 3 for 4 with a double, a home run and an RBI.