MW BASEBALL: Bluejays split home doubleheaderWORTHINGTON — The Minnesota West Bluejay baseball team finally got off the schneid, picking up its first victory of the season with a 6-5 come-from-behind win in eight innings over the Northland Pioneers in the first game of a home-opening doubleheader Saturday afternoon.
By: Lance Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The Minnesota West Bluejay baseball team finally got off the schneid, picking up its first victory of the season with a 6-5 come-from-behind win in eight innings over the Northland Pioneers in the first game of a home-opening doubleheader Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately the local nine was unable to complete the sweep as Northland (1-11) took the nightcap by a score of 13-6 for its first win of the year.
The Bluejays (1-5) earned the Game 1 win by overcoming a 5-0 hole after three-and-a-half innings by scoring two in the fourth, one in the sixth, two in the seventh to force extra innings and capped off the victory with a bases-loaded, game-winning single with no outs by Jacob Bos that plated Alex Peterson.
However, the Bluejays looked like a different team in Game 2, as the hosts committed a trio of errors after being flawless in the first game, while the Pioneers pounded out 16 hits to win big.
“I think part of that was from fatigue,” MW head coach Jeff Linder said following the doubleheader. “We have some young guys that aren’t used to playing doubleheaders and it was warm out.
“We talked after the game about keeping our minds in the game and being more focused. The second game is always the toughest because you have to fight through that fatigue. But these guys know that they can play and know that they can win now after we got a ‘W’ and got that off our back.”
Perhaps the Bluejays did expend most of their energy in the first game, but they made the most of the opener on an unseasonably warm day with a temperature near 75 degrees and little wind.
The Bluejays bats, as well as starting pitcher Mitchell Jensen, struggled through the first half of the game.
Opposing pitcher Kyle Larson (two earned runs on three hits and three walks, while striking out eight in six innings) struck out six of the first nine batters he faced, while Jensen allowed a pair of runs in the third and three in fourth, which was highlighted by a two-run homer to dead center field by Zack Schultz (3-for-5).
However, Jensen allowed no more runs to score following the fourth inning, while the MW bats started to get to Larson.
“We have basically just been hitting, hitting, hitting in practice,” Jensen said. “We were a little nervous at first but we got it done. I think, at first, we weren’t mentally prepared, but in crunch time we came through.”
In the bottom of the fourth, Peterson (3-for-4) started the Bluejays scoring by lacing a one-out single into right field to score Eric Wieneke and Jensen, who had both walked to reach base, to make it 5-2.
The Bluejays cut the lead to 5-3 in the sixth as Jensen reached base on an error and scored on a single to right by Stuart Rogers.
The Pioneers brought in Josh Janzen to close out the game in the seventh and he appeared to be on his way to earning a save by recording the first two outs.
Down to their last out, the Bluejays weren’t finished, as pinch hitter Joshua Evans coaxed a walk to extend the inning.
Wieneke plated Evans by drilling a triple into right field, which was followed by a game-tying single to left field by Joey Kinley to force the extra frame.
“It just feels great. Last Monday, we lost a heartbreaker in the bottom of the seventh and we kind of got down on ourselves,” Wieneke said. “But in this game, we got a little spark and just kind of went with it. Once I hit my triple, I think Joey (Kinley) felt the confidence and he drove me in with a big hit.”
After Jensen worked around a one-out walk in the eighth, the Bluejays took care of business in the home half of the inning.
Peterson led off with a single to open the inning followed by a single by Rogers to give MW runners on the corners.
The Pioneers intentionally walked Adam Munkel to load the bases to give the visitors a force at home, but Bos ended the game with a single back up the middle past the drawn-in infield to score Peterson for the game winner.
Jensen earned the win in a 136-pitch, complete-game effort.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it all eight today,” Jensen said. “But we have a solid team out here and I have faith in the guys behind me.”
However, Jensen wasn’t his sharpest in the victory as he allowed his five runs on seven hits and eight walks, while striking out five.
“Jensen’s a tough pitcher. He’s an athlete and a competitor,” Linder said. “He got out there and did some work for us and kept us in there. We were thinking about making a change, but he didn’t want to come out. He gave up some hits from time to time, but for the most part, he did a great job out there for us.”
In the second game, the Bluejays claimed a 3-2 lead after two innings, but couldn’t maintain the edge as the Pioneers tied the game in the third and then exploded for a four-run inning in the fourth and a pair of three-run innings in both the sixth and seventh to win going away.
Alex Borowicz (3-for-5) led Northland with a pair of two-run homers, a double and five RBI in the nightcap.
“Borowicz had his number and he knew it,” Linder said. “(Starting pitcher) Shane (Schoborg) was trying to keep it up and away him and that wasn’t working either. He got on him and tagged it around.”
Schoborg took the Game 2 loss for the Bluejays, while Kevin Hatcher earned the win for the Pioneers.
Wieneke, Jensen (two RBI) and Evans each had a pair of hits and scored a run in the second game to lead MW, while Rogers drove in a pair of runs.
The Bluejays return to action Friday, as they travel to Coon Rapids for games against Anoka Ramsey and Mesabi Range.
“I’m proud of the guys, as they worked hard and battled all the way to the end,” Linder added. “The guys will continue to learn and adjust to the college game as we move forward.”
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NL 002 300 00 — 5 7 2
MW 000 201 21 — 6 8 0
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NL 201 403 3 — 13 16 3
MW 210 010 2 — 6 9 3