MW BASEBALL: Bluejays split with Cardinals
JACKSON -- The first time Ryan Rasche took the mound in a Minnesota West uniform, he was nervous.
In his second appearance, he looked like a seasoned veteran.
Rasche was one of three pitchers to deliver a solid performance as the Bluejays split with Hibbing in a college baseball doubleheader Friday afternoon at Wacker Field.
The Bluejays (1-3) couldn't get the bats going in the first game and suffered a 3-1 loss before recovering for an 8-2 victory in Game 2.
"These guys have worked really hard," MW head coach Jeff Linder said. "Our defense is really solid. That first game, we left nine on and we had four or five in scoring position and couldn't punch them in with one out or less.
"We just could not get it done. But the bats are coming. These guys just have to have confidence at the plate."
Rasche's first appearance was Wednesday morning in the Metrodome. He suffered the loss while allowing five earned runs.
"Everything was all right until we got done with warm-ups and it was time to get in the bullpen," Rasche said. "Then I started getting a little nervous. Stepping on the mound for the first pitch, my legs were shaking. I just wanted to get it over with. The first inning was a little bit shaky, then I settled down and it was all right from there."
Friday, playing on the same field he starred on in high school, he was right at home.
"This is my home away from home," Rasche said. "I was very comfortable. You can't beat playing at this place."
The offense finally came around for the Bluejays in the second game, but it wasn't an easy victory.
Starting pitcher Ryan Swanson cruised through the first five innings, but got into some trouble in the sixth.
Coming off the bench, the freshman left-hander recorded two quick outs in the sixth and allowed one runner to reach base in the seventh before closing the door on an 8-2 victory.
"I look at it as almost a job," Rasche said. "It's my job to get us out of the jams."
Battling a sore knee, Swanson gave the Bluejays a great start.
He allowed two runs on four hits while walking three and striking out three.
Before the sixth inning, only one runner was in scoring position. Chais White hit a deep triple in the third inning, but Swanson was able to get Cody Patko to ground out to end the threat.
After stranding nine runners on base in the first game, MW looked to be in the same trouble in the first two innings of Game 2.
However, in the third inning, the bats came alive.
With one out, Lon Eichenberger walked, and was later driven home on a double by Corey Polz, giving MW a 1-0 lead.
Matt Gades started the fourth inning with a double, and was driven home on Alan Schmidt's double two batters later.
MW added another run in the fourth and had a 3-0 lead entering the fifth inning.
It was in that frame the wheels came off for Hibbing.
All nine batters came to the plate for MW, as Marcus Schultz started the inning by getting hit with a pitch.
Polz followed with another double, and Glen Kruger drove in Schultz with a single.
Polz scored on a wild pitch and Kruger scored on a passed ball as MW scored four runs in the inning and had a 7-0 lead.
After Hibbing scored twice off Swanson in the sixth, MW added another run in the bottom of the inning.
Schultz walked and scored on Polz's third consecutive double of the game, pushing the lead to 8-2.
"I've been seeing the ball really good lately," Polz said. "Everyone was hitting the ball, and hitting is contagious."
While Swanson and Rasche combined for a victory in Game 2, Deon Entringer didn't have the same fortune in Game 1.
The freshman right-hander threw well enough to earn the victory, but the Bluejay offense managed four hits and a mere one run.
"My main goal was to throw strikes and not walk anyone, and I didn't walk anyone," Entringer said. "I just threw strikes and got ground balls. I just wanted to keep us in the game."
Entringer allowed one earned run on four hits while striking out six.
"I had some nerves right away, as it was the game before when I played in the field," Entringer said. "But pitching, I was definitely nervous right away."
Friday, MW pitchers allowed a combined two earned runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out 11.
"Deon did a great job," Linder said. "Even in the second game, I wasn't expecting that much out of Swanson. He has a bum knee, and I thought it was going to stiffen up on him between innings, and what a great job he did. We planned on bringing Rasche in and shutting it down, regardless of what was going to happen."
MW wasn't able to take advantage of the four hits, five walks and two hit batsmen allowed by Hibbing pitcher Josh Shain.
"Defensively, we're solid," Linder said. "We have to get some key two-strike hits with runners in scoring position. That'll come with more at bats. The more we can play, the better off we're going to be."
MW had two runners on in the first inning with one out, and three innings later, the Bluejays had two runners on with no outs.
They didn't score either time.
"We left a ton of base runners," Rasche said. "We could get the hits to get on base, but then nobody could get the hit to score anybody."
Schultz drove in Gades in the seventh, but that was all MW could manage in a 3-1 loss.
However, the Game 2 victory gave the Bluejays positive momentum heading into today's games at the crossover tournament in Austin.
"It feels a lot better than last year," Polz said. "We are a little bit bigger team, so we have a little bit more depth. I think we'll be pretty good this year; we'll just see how it goes."
Game 1 R H E
Hibbing 011 000 1 -- 3 4 0
MW 000 000 1 -- 1 4 2
Game 2 R H E
Hibbing 000 002 0 -- 2 4 2
MW 001 241 X -- 8 11 2