Pirates back on the right track
The Blue Earth Pirates seem to be getting some of their mojo back, even if the once-undefeated baseball team needed a wakeup call or three to do so.
Twelve runs lifted the amateur club to its second consecutive victory, a shutout win over the visiting Cleveland Spiders on Wednesday, while an 8-7 walkoff “W” over the Raymond Rockets on July 9 snapped a three-game skid by the Pirates.
Blue Earth needed only seven innings to top Cleveland, building a 5-0 lead by the third inning and doubling the deficit two frames later before the game was called after seven.
Brandon Williamson and Cody Sukalski shared the pitching duties for the Pirates, who surrendered early hits to John Eckstein and a slew of other Spiders. But a pair of doubles by catcher Bobby Olson, not to mention some bases-loaded walks throughout the lineup, headlined the Pirates’ big win.
Five RBIs from Olson, once again the standout, helped Blue Earth topple Raymond on July 9, the same day the Pirates also suffered their third straight loss.
A five-run fourth inning by the Rockets undid some early offense by Blue Earth, but with the game knotted at seven in the ninth, the Pirates pulled through, securing the win for pitcher Aaron Wendt.
Wendt, John Franta and player/manager Lee Hodges also drove in runs in the walkoff victory.
Before their return to the win column, however, the Pirates hit quite a snag in the road at the start of the 2016 Coors Light Tournament, falling 9-4 to the host Shakopee Indians and 12-5 to the Moorhead Brewers.
Two days removed from their first loss of the season, the Pirates scored in each of the first two innings of their Friday, July 8, matchup with Shakopee. But the Indians found baserunners early and often to build a six-run lead through those frames, nearing double digits on the scoreboard against the usually unscathed Brandyn Olsen.
Entering the game having given up zero earned runs on the year, Olsen surrendered seven against Shakopee.
Two of the runs were unearned but still prevented Blue Earth from clawing out of its second consecutive defeat, as a two-run Pirates rally in the sixth was quieted by the Shakopee Indians’ ninth and final run later in the inning.
Bobby Olson again led Blue Earth at the plate with two hits, a double and an RBI. Olsen and T.J. Schmidtke also doubled against Shakopee, while Hodges and Trent Sonnicksen also reached base with hits.
Against Moorhead on Saturday, July 9, the Pirates were hit with another dose of uncharacteristic struggles, surrendering 15 hits and five errors en route to their largest deficit of defeat on the season. After a five-run first inning by the Brewers, Blue Earth was never able to take the lead.
The Pirates were next scheduled for a Friday night rematch with the Waterville Indians as well as a 2 p.m. game against the Lake Crystal Lakers on Saturday. After that, Blue Earth is scheduled to host the Austin BlueSox at 2 p.m. the next day. Their regular season schedule, as of July 14, closes with a 7:30 p.m. matchup with the Martins in Fairmont on July 20.
Hodges said the Pirates will host a league playoff game to start the postseason before region and state tournament play begins.