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Bulls score early, defeat Heron Lake Lakers, 8-2

JACKSON -- Scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning, the Jackson Bulls defeated the Heron Lake Lakers, 8-2, Friday night, earning the right to challenge Fox Lake Sunday for the First Nite League championship.

Riding the steady pitching of lefty Ryan Rasche, the Bulls turned a couple of key defensive plays and kept the Lakers off the scoreboard most of the game.

Heron Lake, which pulled a pair of upsets to get to this game, finishes its season with a 6-15 record. The Lakers won three of their last five games and lost six games by just one run during the regular season.

Rasche faced 28 batters in seven full innings, scattering eight hits, while walking just two and striking out four. Tom Schuller pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Caleb Rossow did the same in the ninth.

The Bulls capitlized on a pair of Heron Lake errors and a walk -- along with two timely hits -- to score four times in the first inning.

Corey Polz extended the lead to 5-0 when he smacked the first pitch of the second inning deep over the right field fence.

"That's about as long a shot as I have seen here with a wooden bat," said veteran Bulls' skipper Scott Bahr. "We've hit some long ones like that with aluminum bats, but that was quite a blast with wood."

Heron Lake scored in the top of the fourth when Tyler Leopold ripped a double to right center field and cousin Mitch followed with a deep blast to left center, plating Tyler with his RBI double.

Jackson's Kim Wachel singled, stole a pair of bases and scored on a Heron Lake error in the bottom of the fifth, increasing the Bull lead to 6-1.

Heron Lake's Josh Wasmund led off the top of the sixth with a towering home run over the left field fence.

Jackson added an insurance run in both the seventh and eighth innings, earning the six-run victory.

"That was a good team that we beat tonight," said Bahr. "The Lakers have been coming on well at season's end and we needed to play a solid game to beat them."

Polz, Wachal, Andy Wolf and Matt Bezdicek each had two hits for the Bulls, while Trent Sukalski, Jordan Lewis and Jared Rahe each had a single in Jackson's 11-hit attack.

Heron Lake, which threatened with a pair of hits and a walk in the top of the third inning -- loading the bases with no outs, before Rasche turned a 1-2-3 double play to thwart the rally -- finished the game with eight hits, but committed seven errors.

Wasmund and Lucas Knutson both had a pair of hits for the Lakers, while Leopold, Leopold, Todd Waller and Mark Fest each had one hit.

Tyler Leopold pitched the first five innings for Heron Lake, taking the loss as he was tagged for six runs -- just three of them earned -- on eight hits. Jerry Haberman and Ike Rogers also pitched for the Lakers.

A defensive highlight for Heron Lake came in the bottom of the sixth when Tyler Leopold -- playing shortstop at the time -- fielded a sharp grounder and fired home to Laker catcher Rogers, who applied the tag at home, preventing a Jackson run.

Both center fielders -- Wall for Heron Lake and Wolf for Jackson -- made several fine running catches in the game.

Jackson will host Fox Lake Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in a seeding game for the upcoming regional tournament. If the Bulls win that game, they will tangle with the Foxes in a second game for the league championship.

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