Lights out Lee! 1-0 Win
The Blue Earth Pirates began their quest for a Minnesota State Amateur Baseball championship on Aug. 19. The Pirates made the trip to Norwood where they were embroiled in a tightly contested pitcher’s duel with the Fort Ripley Rebels.
Blue Earth pitcher and manager Lee Hodges was the star of the show as he pitched 10 scoreless innings and led the Pirates to a 1-0 victory. Hodges kept up a brisk pace on the hill as the game moved along rather quickly considering it was an extra inning affair. Hodges estimates that he threw about 115 pitches in the ballgame.
The key to Hodges’ success was largely due to getting ahead of Rebel hitters early in pitch counts. In fact, Hodges managed to throw 21 first-pitch strikes during the game. The Amboy native was able to utilize a nasty slider that kept Fort Ripley batters off balance all afternoon.
“I had good control of all three of my pitches,” Hodges explained. “At this level, if you have three different pitches that you can consistently throw for strikes, you’re in good shape.”
Playing as the road team, the only run of the game was scored in the top of the 10th. TJ Schmidtke led off the frame with a single and reached second base after a sacrifice bunt by BE outfielder John Franta.
Some heady baserunning allowed Schmidtke to advance to third following a Fort Ripley error. Catcher Bobby Olson eventually cashed in for Blue Earth with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Heading into the bottom of the 10th, Hodges revealed that despite already having pitched nine innings, there was no question he would take the mound in the 10th.
“I didn’t want to put anybody else in that position to get the last three outs. I already had a good feel of what was working because I had already seen these batters three or four times during the game. My mind set was just to follow the game plan and keep throwing strikes.”
Only allowing four hits in the game, Hodges retired three Fort Ripley batters in order in the final inning. It took Hodges just eight pitches to finish off the Rebels in the tenth. In the win, Hodges spoke highly of opposing pitcher Jack Hegarty.
“He pitched a tremendous game,” Hodges said of Hegarty. “I think he was the best pitcher we’ve faced all season long. We tried to manufacture runs and almost got something on the board in the first inning. We just had to keep fighting for the whole game.”
Interestingly enough, Hodges says he and his team did not feel any postseason pressure in the closely contested game against the Rebels. A veteran group with 15 consecutive tournament appearances, Hodges feels his team’s experience is a major advantage as the Pirates advances to the next round.
“Good players can block that stuff out. Our guys know to just go out there and have fun and enjoy the season. It helps to create a loose atmosphere in the dugout,” Hodges said.
Blue Earth’s next playoff game was against the Bemidji Blue Ox on Sunday, Aug. 27 in Hamburg. Results of this contest will be available in next week’s edition of the Faribault County Register.