Olsen pushes Pirates onward
If good things really come in threes, the Blue Earth Pirates have the Minnesota Lake Royals to thank.
Squaring off with the Royals for the third time in this year’s town-team baseball season on Sunday, the Pirates rode a 15-strikeout one-hitter from Brandyn Olsen to victory, downing Minnesota Lake 5-1 in the opening round of 13/60 league playoffs.
The four-run win, Blue Earth’s third victory over the Royals this year, sent the Pirates to the second round of the league tournament a July 31 home game and secured the club a spot in Minnesota Baseball Association’s region bracket.
Olsen, also a pitcher for Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, entered Sunday’s contest, held at Winnebago’s Community Field, as the Pirates’ strikeout leader. And even with veteran catcher Bobby Olson missing from behind the plate, Olsen had the strike zone on his side against the Royals.
Surrendering just one hit, a fourth-inning single, he mowed through the Minnesota Lake lineup before Brandon Williamson relieved him with an inning of one-run work in the ninth. The only blemishes on Olsen’s eight-inning outing were a pair of walks in the seventh one on a hit-by-pitch.
“The game plan was just to come in and throw strikes,”?Olsen said, “and I?felt like I?had a little extra tonight.”
His performance at the plate might have justified that, too.
It was Olsen’s leadoff hit in the fourth inning that kicked off a three-run frame for the Pirates, putting Blue Earth on the scoreboard for the first time in Sunday’s postseason action.
Aaron Wendt, Cody Sukalski and T.J. Stallman laced RBI singles into the Royals outfield, and player/manager Lee Hodges also followed Olsen with a double to extend Blue Earth’s offensive streak.
An inning later, Hodges grounded out to drive in the Pirates’ fourth run of the day, while Sukalski tacked on a final insurance run in the seventh, scoring from first on a double by Stallman.
Leading 5-0 in the ninth, the Pirates saw Minnesota Lake threaten with a pair of leadoff walks. But after an error on a fielder’s choice allowed the Royals one run, Williamson sealed the Blue Earth victory, stranding two baserunners to log the save.
Also contributing to the Pirates’ win, their sixth straight dating back to a 22-3 regular season, were outfielder John Franta, who had two singles and catcher Kaylan Legred, an All-Big South Conference honoree for Blue Earth Area High School who filled in for Olson behind the plate.
Securing homefield advantage for the second round of league playoffs, the Pirates were scheduled to return to Fairgrounds Baseball Field in Blue Earth for a 2 p.m. game on?Sunday either a rematch with the Royals or a showdown with the Morristown Morries, depending on which of those two teams advanced on Saturday.
Sunday’s league championship also serves as an opportunity for the Pirates to warrant higher seeding in the upcoming region tournament.