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College baseball: Minnesota West bats explode in perfect weekend

TIM MIDDAGH/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West pitcher Josh Gross rocks and fires Saturday during the second game of the Bluejays’ doubleheader against M State-Fergus Falls in Worthington.1 / 3
TIM MIDDAGH/DAILY GLOBE M State third basemen Andrew Myer's tag on Isaac Canada of Minnesota West is too late Saturday afternoon during the Bluejays' home sweep of the Spartans. 2 / 3
TIM MIDDAGH/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West pitcher Josh Gross keeps M State's Zach Schroeder honest with a pickoff throw to first baseman Moises Vallejos Saturday in Worthington.3 / 3

WORTHINGTON — Minnesota West averaged 12 runs per game Saturday and Sunday in sweeping a pair of home doubleheaders.

The Bluejays, who out-scored opponents M State and Central Lakes 48-23, needed only five innings to win three of the four contests by run-rule. They beat the Spartans 10-9 on a walkoff hit by Luis Sanchez in the opener before a 12-2 thrashing to end the day. On Sunday, they earned victories of 17 -4 and 19-8 against the Raiders.

“We were hitting the ball well,” West head coach TD Hostikka said. “We found a lot of gaps and the guys had a great approach with two strikes. They really did a nice job.”

The tone for the weekend was set in the bottom of the first inning played. Tyler Patterson and Ryan Lee — both of whom had monster weekends at the dish — had already scored when Juan Sermo came to the plate with a runner on and two outs. He blasted a two-run home run onto the WAYBA field on the other side of the left field fence. On a day when sustained winds of 20-to-25 miles per hour were blowing out to left field, the shot would have been a no-doubter on a calm afternoon.

Jan Carlos Garcia and Lee scored in the bottom of the second to put the Jays up 6-0, but M State got three back in the top of the third. The Spartans continued to chip away at the lead until a four-run sixth — helped in no small part by a 2-run blast by Zach Schroeder — gave them their first lead at 8-7.

It was short-lived.

Austin Watkins stook on third base with two outs in the bottom of the second when Patterson came to the plate again. This time, the lefty from Fullerton, Calif., cracked a 2-run jack to right that put the Jays back in front, 9-8.

“He hit five home runs this weekend and all but two were wind-aided,” Hostikka admitted. “But that one he hit in the first game definitely wasn’t.”

Andrew Hill scored in the top of the seventh knot the score back up and set up some dramatics for the home team.

Working against relief pitcher Zach Thunselle, Sermo legged out a one-out triple. Next up was Sanchez. He sent a looper to right-center that sent the Minnesota West dugout streaming onto the field to celebrate a 10-9, walkoff victory.

Zachary Devon got the win in one inning of relief for the Bluejays. Starter Ricky Garcia went five innings and struck out eight in a no-decision. Sermo was 2-for-3 with a home run, a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored. Alex Rodriguez went 3-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.

The momentum of winning a thriller carried over into Game 2. West exploded for eight runs in the third inning en route to a 12-2 triumph.

Josh Gross had a stellar game on the hill, allowing only one earned run on two hits while fanning eight over five innings. Patterson’s big weekend continued when he went 3-for-3 with two home runs, three RBIs, four runs scored and a stolen base. He teamed up with Lee — who was 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs — for back-to-back home runs in the top of the first.

In the opener against Central Lakes on Sunday, catcher Joshua Leon stepped to the plate with his team up 13-4 in the bottom of the fifth and the bases juiced. One mighty swing was all it took to send the ball over the fence and end the game at 17-4 with a grand slam.

Leon was 2-for-2 with five RBIs and a run scored. Lee went 2-for-3 with three ribbies and a run while Garcia was 2-for-3 with a double, two runs and an RBI. Joseph Torres went the distance for the win, allowing two earned runs and fanning nine while scattering five hits.

In the final game of the weekend, the Jays hung a 9-spot on the board in the top of the second. That helped them build a 17-3 lead before a momentary lapse in focus allowed the Raiders to score five. West responded with two in the fifth to put it away by run-rule.

“When you get up 17-3, we’re not going to steal or go on passed balls or anything like that because we want to respect the other team,” Hostikka said. “But the guys still have to go out and make plays defensively. They still have to throw strikes, field the ball and throw the ball. I don’t think any of their runs in that inning were earned. We had three errors. Next thing you know, we’re not up by 10 anymore. We just have to keep our focus up no matter what.”

Patterson had another huge game, blasting two home runs and adding a double, five RBIs and three runs in a 3-for-3 performance. Jonathon Fernandez didn’t allow any earned runs and struck out three during three innings of work.

A trio of Bluejays went through the weekend at a torrid pace at the plate.

Patterson was 10-for-11 with five home runs, a double, 11 RBIs, 12 runs scored, two stolen bases and a pair of walks. Lee, a Worthington native, finished 8-for-10 with a homer, six RBIs and five runs scored with Rodriguez ending at 9-of-13 with two doubles, four RBIs, seven runs and five stolen bases.

“Those are huge numbers,” Hostikka said.

Saturday and Sunday, West (14-8 overall) will be at the Haller Invitational in St. Cloud for four games.

“That will be a real test for all of our guys,” Hostikka said.

R H E

M State 003 104 1 — 9 13 6

West 421 002 1 — 10 14 2

R H E

West 208 11 — 12 14 1

M State 002 00 — 2 2 0

R H E

Lakes 112 00 — 4 5 1

West 044 18 — 17 11 1

R H E

West 492 22 — 19 20 5

Lakes 111 50 — 8 7 2

Zach Hacker

Zach is the Daily Globe sports reporter. He has previously been a sports editor at both the Waseca County News in Waseca, Minn., and The Emporia Gazette in Emporia, Kansas. He is originally from New Richland, Minn., and now lives in Worthington with his dog; a beagle-corgi mix named Homer. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with family and friends, pontooning on St. Olaf Lake and watching professional and collegiate sports.

(507) 376-7335
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