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College baseball: Combined no-hitter highlights Minnesota West's weekend

AVON — The plan going into Sunday’s doubleheader against Mesabi Range was to get Zach Devon some time in his closer role in preparation for division play.

Minnesota West led the Norsemen 3-0 heading into the seventh, and Devon came in to close it out. What made this unique, however, was that starter Ricky Garcia had a no-hitter going.

“We had a plan to use a closer,” West head coach TD Hostikka said. “I knew Ricky had a no-hitter going but I didn’t say anything to coach (Zac) Custer because of the whole jinx thing. When he put Zach in for the save, he said he didn’t realize Ricky had a no-hitter.”

It still worked out just fine for the Bluejays. Devon struck out one and got the save after Garcia had fanned eight and walked just one over six innings. Neither gave up a hit as the Jays earned a 3-0 victory. In the nightcap, they dropped a 5-4 heartbreaker to finish the weekend at 2-2. Saturday, they lost 6-1 against Rainy River before coming back to win Game 2 13-7.

West scored two runs in the bottom of the first to give Garcia more than enough breathing room in the no-hitter. It all started with Hector Castro and Rolando Ramos, their catalysts at the top of the lineup.

Castro walked and stole two bases before scoring on a basehit by Ramos. He stole a base as well and later touched home plate to make it 2-0.

“We had three stolen bases in that inning and that really set the tone for us,” Hostikka said. “Between innings, their coach was walking off the field and he said to me, ‘Jiminy Christmas, Coach. We knew you were going to steal and we still couldn’t do anything about it.’”

That was enough. One more run in the bottom of the sixth brought the game to its final as Garcia was electric during his six innings of work.

“He was really efficient,” Hostikka said. “He only threw 67 pitches in six innings and was just dominant from the get-go.”

Jonathon Fernandez added a 2-for-3 performance at the plate with an RBI.

The second game didn’t go quite as well. The Jays led 2-1 going into the home half of the fifth when a pair of miscues proved costly.

The Bluejays committed two errors that kept the inning alive for the Norsemen. With two outs, they blasted a 3-run home run to take the lead at 4-2. West fought back, however. It scored one in the sixth before Jan Carlos Garcia scored in the top of the seventh to knot it up.

Again, Mesabi Range took advantage of an extra out.

The leadoff batter hit a flyball that should have been easily wrangled by an infielder. A lack of communication allowed the ball to drop and the batter to reach first. After stealing second, he was sacrificed over to third before scoring the walkoff run on a looper to the outfield.

“Nobody took charge,” Hostikka said. “If somebody takes charge, that’s an easy out.”

Devon took the hard-luck loss for the Jays, allowing an unearned run in a non-save situation. Fernandez went the first four and didn’t get a decision. Derick Veldkamp went 2-for-2 with a double to lead the offense.

Saturday started with a sluggish performance by Minnesota West in its opener against Rainy River.

The Voyageurs scratched the game’s first run across in the top of the fourth and went up 2-0 in the fifth before the Jays got one back. But one more in the sixth and three in the seventh put it away for Rainy River.

Josh Gross went 5 2/3 innings in the loss, striking out five and allowing five earned runs.

“He pitched a nice game,” Hostikka said. “We just didn’t hit for him at all.”

The game may have proved even more costly than a notch in the loss column. In his first at-bat of the weekend, defending NJCAA National Player of the Week Tyler Patterson’s spikes stuck in the ground when he went to swing. His knee twisted and he was out for the remainder of the tournament. Hostikka said he will see a specialist today to learn the extent of the injury.

“Hopefully he can return, but if he can’t we have some good depth,” Hostikka said. “But we’d sure like to have his bat in our lineup.”

Even without Patterson, the Jays exploded for 13 runs in their second game of the afternoon. They held a 8-0 lead before Rainy River finally dented the home side of the scoreboard in the fifth.

Joe Wieneke — a native of Windom — earned the win on the pitching rubber. He allowed just two runs on four hits and struck out four over five innings of work. Ryan Lee had a big game, going 3-for-5 with two runs and another driven in while Fernandez was 3-for-4 with three runs and a two-bagger. Jan Carlos Garcia went 2-for-4 with a double, two runs, an RBI and two stolen bases. Castro went 2-for-4 with three ribbies, two runs, two doubles and a pair of stolen bases.

“The top of our order really mashed the ball,” Hostikka said.

The Bluejays (16-10 overall) travel to Orange City, Iowa, for a 5 p.m. doubleheader against Northwestern’s junior varsity on Wednesday.

Sunday

R H E

Mesabi 000 000 0 — 0 0 0

West 200 001 x — 3 5 1

R H E

West 010 011 1 — 4 6 5

Mesabi 000 130 1 — 5 6 1

Saturday

R H E

Rainy 000 111 3 — 6 8 0

West 000 010 0 — 1 3 3

R H E

West 321 200 5 — 13 13 0

Rainy 000 020 5 — 7 9 3

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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