By Scott A. Kolb
Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
The first weekend of baseball at Dick Seltz Field finished up with a split of two games on Saturday for the Riverland Blue Devils.
Two of the teams backed out of the scheduled tournament hosted by Riverland, but there were still enough on hand to play ball on Saturday afternoon. Riverland started the day with a 4-1 win over Anoka-Ramsey, but ended up with a 6-4 loss to Central Lakes in extra innings.
Brandon Huhn, sophomore pitcher for the Blue Devils, looked sharp on the mound in the opening game against Anoka-Ramsey. Huhn went the distance and struck out 10 batters in the win.
The offense didn't produce a lot of runs, but it was more than enough for Huhn. Despite his team being outhit 5-to-3 in the game, Huhn was in control the whole way. He allowed only one walk and had a shutout going for the first five innings.
"Brandon pitched well and did his job, but we don't seem to hit very well for him in his starts." Riverland coach Scott Koenigs said. "We came into the weekend as the 10th best hitting team in the country, but a lot of our guys struggled at the plate. Still, we played four games in two days on our home field, and everybody got in some work."
Zach Vlietstra continued his hot hitting as he scored the first run of the game against the Golden Rams of A-R. Vlietstra singled, stole two bases, and scored in the bottom of the first inning. The Blue Devils added another run in the bottom of the second.
Huhn was cruising along, when a pair of A-R runners got on base with one out in the top of the fifth. The Riverland hurler promptly recorded a strikeout and followed that by getting a groundout to end the threat.
Brian Voigt gave his pitcher a bit more of a cushion by making it a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Voigt drew a walk and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jeff Huth. The Rams pitcher wasn't content to leave Voigt at second as an errant pickoff attempt allowed him to move up a base.
Toby Kaplan followed with a sacrifice fly to send Voigt home with the third run of the game. Huhn appeared to tire slightly in the top of the sixth and gave up a pair of hits, which led to the only run for the visiting Rams.
The offense got it right back in the bottom of the sixth. Derek Hahn drew a two-out walk, stole second, and then scored on a double by Andy Behnke.
"Brandon threw strikes and the defense did a good job behind him." Koenigs commented. "I wasn't satisfied with only getting three hits, but we took advantage of their walks. The guys just have to due a better job with the bats."
More problems with the offense surfaced in the late game against Central Lakes as the Blue Devils mustered only four hits in the loss. The game was scoreless through the first four innings.
Hard-throwing lefty Ryan Palmer got the pitching start for the Blue Devils and had seven strikeouts in six-plus innings of work. Despite a solid mound outing, Palmer left with a pair of runners on base in the top of the seventh inning and didn't figure in the final decision.
Both teams scored three runs in the fifth inning and it remained deadlocked. The Riverland rally started with a single from Dustin Fritz, who then took second base on a passed ball.
Mitch Kaplan followed with an RBI double to score Fritz. The rally continued when Kaplan went to third on a wild pitch and scored on an errant throw. Shawn Pape then walked, stole second, and scored on a single by Voigt.
After the Golden Rams took the lead back with a run in the top of the sixth, the Blue Devils tied the game again in the bottom of the seventh. Pape walked with one out, went to second on a sacrifice, and scored when the A-R first baseman couldn't field a hard liner hit by Voigt. Still, it wasn't enough as the Rams scored twice in the eighth inning.
Riverland reliever Zach Prins got his team out of a jam after replacing Palmer on the hill in the seventh, but he walked the leadoff man in the top of the eighth. A bunt hit followed and Prins was lifted for another reliever. Both runners would later score on an error, and Prins would take the loss.
One more chance to score came the way of the Blue Devils courtesy of walks in the bottom of the eighth. Derek Hahn was hit by a pitch to start the final Riverland at-bat, and Corey Feickert came on to run for the catcher. After an out, Chris Lindemann walked and Shane Lange loaded the bases with another walk. But a fly ball and then a strikeout ended the last threat.
"We just didn't get it done with the bats," Koenigs concluded. "The split of the first four home games shows we have a lot of work to do."
Riverland (12-5) is scheduled to play a doubleheader today against the Carleton College junior varsity at Northfield.
RIVERLAND 4, ANOKA-RAMSEY 1
Anoka-Ramsey 000 001 0 -- 1 5 2
Riverland 110 011 x -- 4 3 0
Riverland: Brian Voigt 1-1, walk, 2B, 2 R; Zach Vlietstra 1-3, 2 SB, R; Andy Behnke 1-3, 2B, RBI; Derek Hahn 0-1, 2 walks, R. WP: Brandon Huhn, 7 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 10 K.
CENTRAL LAKES 6, RIVERLAND 4
Central Lakes 000 031 02 -- 6 10 2
Riverland 000 030 10 -- 4 4 1
Riverland: Voigt 2-3, walk, SB, RBI; Dustin Fritz 1-3, R; Mitch Kaplan 1-4, 2B, R, RBI; Shawn Pape 0-2, 2 walks, SB, 2 R. SP: Ryan Palmer, 6 2/3 IP, 4 R, 9 H, 4 BB, 1 HB, 7 K. LP: Zach Prins, 1/3 IP 2 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 K. RP: Vlietstra, 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K.