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Pirates win, head to playoffs

By Staff | Jul 24, 2016

Lee Hodges with the catch for the Blue Earth Pirates.

It’s playoff time.

The Blue Earth Pirates topped the Worthington Cubs on Wednesday, closing their regular season on a five-game winning streak and advancing to the postseason with 22 victories under their belt.

Blue Earth’s amateur baseball team, consistently ranked among the Minnesota Baseball Association’s top regional contenders, will host either the Morristown Morries or Minnesota Lake Royals on Sunday. A 2 p.m. matchup will kick off the playoffs for the Pirates, who then anticipate hitting the road.

“We just look to continue playing well as a team,”?said player/manager Lee Hodges. “Each guy in our lineup is capable of having a big game at the plate, and it seems like it’s a different guy each game, which really shows our depth.”

That was evidenced by the Pirates’ 16 hits against Worthington, which helped Blue Earth knock off the Cubs, 8-4. And it was just the latest in a recent string of successful showcases by Blue Earth. Since an uncharacteristic three-game slide early in the month, the Pirates have outscored opponents 37-14, at one point sweeping three consecutive league foes.

“And,”?Hodges added, “we have some young guys coming off a good high school and (American)?Legion season, so they could possibly help us out while we make a run for our 14th straight state tournament.”

Propelling toward that goal, the Pirates can at least boast a recent swing of momentum.

Their July 17 home game against the Austin BlueSox was postponed because of rain, but back-to-back wins over the Waterville Indians and Lake Crystal Lakers on July 15 and 16 ensured continued success for the Pirates, who began the year with 17 consecutive victories.

Against the Lakers, in a 4-1 decision, Hodges pitched eight innings for Blue Earth, surrendering just three hits before giving way to Aaron Wendt’s scoreless ninth. He also drove in one of the Pirates’ four runs, which Wendt, Kane Malo, Bobby Olson and Seth Anderson scored.

Malo and T.J. Schmidtke each had a pair of hits in the contest, which had the makings of a shutout until a one-run eighth inning by Lake Crystal. Had the Lakers not scored, Blue Earth would have had its 10th shutout of the season.

Against Waterville, the Pirates avenged a July 6 loss to the Indians, their first defeat of the season, with a 5-2 win powered by seven innings of two-run ball from Brandyn Olsen as well as a three-run ninth inning.

Blue Earth’s strikeouts leader, Olsen walked six batters in the rematch with Waterville.

But he also allowed just four hits, keeping the Indians scoreless for five consecutive innings after a one-run first frame.

Olsen helped his own cause with two hits at the plate, not to mention an RBI and a pair of runs.

Hodges, meanwhile, led the brigade with three RBIs, and Olson logged a team-high four base hits offensive production that broke a 2-2 tie in the ninth and put the Pirates ahead for good.

Malo also contributed with a double and an RBI, and Wendt returned to the mound for the game’s final two innings, allowing one hit to seal the victory.