College baseball: West struggling at the plate
WORTHINGTON — Still struggling at the plate and in the field, the Minnesota West Community and Technical College baseball team lost twice to Central Lakes Friday, 2-1 and 8-2.
A stiff wind blowing in from right-centerfield made hitting a challenge for both teams, but the Bluejays could muster just nine hits in the doubleheader at the local college field.
Central Lakes was the home team Friday. The doubleheader was shifted to Worthington due to poor field conditions in Brainerd.
Friday afternoon’s first game was decided in the second inning when Central Lakes plated two unearned runs on a hit and two infield errors. Minnesota West battled hard to come back but finished a run short.
To head coach TD Hostikka, the game was a missed opportunity.
“We didn’t hit the ball. We didn’t put any pressure on them,” he said. “In this wind, you gotta put the ball down. You gotta cut it in half, and we went with the same approach every time in the order. That was a winnable game.”
The Bluejays did, indeed, hit several fly ball outs that got caught up in the breeze. Hostikka said the team’s approach was supposed to be “quick, hands to the zone, and not try to yank it all the time.”
Dustin Pronk, a sophomore from Jackson, was the losing pitcher despite throwing well. He allowed just four hits and demonstrated an easy throwing motion that put zip on the ball. In the sixth inning, he stranded a Central Lakes runner on third base.
Minnesota West, on the other hand, had its chances. In the fourth inning the Jays had a runner reach second base, but he was thrown out in a steal attempt of third base for the second out of the inning. The next batter walked but was stranded.
The team’s only run occurred in the top of the fifth. Evan Koch was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. After Clarke Hein struck out on a pitch even with his chin, Eric Koob was called out on a third strike. But Erik Jass drilled a single and, with runners on first and second base, Tristan Sorenson hit a solid RBI single to right-centerfield.
That was the last serious scoring opportunity the Jays could muster in the seven-inning game, however. In the seventh, the team went meekly down 1-2-3 on a pair of fly balls to centerfield and a ground out.
The loss put West at 3-14 on the season.
Hostikka wasn’t pleased. Several minutes afterward, his mind was still on Central Lakes’ second inning.
“That’s their third game of the year,” he said. “Period. Our pitcher pitched a heck of a game, and then we don’t play defense.”
In the nightcap, which was set for nine innings, Central Lakes rapped out 11 hits and West committed five errors. The Raiders jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead off Bluejay starter Colin Brons, scoring two runs in the first inning and three more in the second.
Brons pitched seven innings and allowed eight runs — seven earned. He gave up all 11 hits while walking four and striking out four.
Trent Carlson had a good day at the plate for the Jays, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. For the Bluejays as a whole, however, the hits are not coming often enough.
Hostikka said the team appears to be pressing. Better things will come when players learn to relax more.
“We’re not hitting the ball. We’re the third worst hitting team in the conference. We started the week hitting .174.”
Minnesota West will try to get the bats going today at M State-Fergus Falls. The first of two games begin at 1 p.m.
R H E
MWest 000 010 0 — 1 3 3
CLakes 020 000 x — 2 4 0
R H E
MWest 000 000 110 — 2 6 5
CLakes 230 210 00x — 8 11 0