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Lovell it: Lovell brothers beat Mountain Lake, Worthington Sunday as Pirates clinch regular season First Nite League title

The moment player-manager Ryan Swanson knew it was Collin Lovell who had been designated to pitch against his Worthington Cubs Sunday night, he knew the Cubs’ chances of splitting their home-away doubleheader significantly dipped.

071121 N DG Worthington Cubs vs Fox Lake Foxes S1 .jpg
Worthington Cubs Ethan Duffy (15) slides safely into home plate covered by Fox Lake Foxes catcher Mitchell Prafke in the first inning at the Minnesota West Baseball field Sunday afternoon 07 11 21. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WINDOM -- The moment player-manager Ryan Swanson knew it was Collin Lovell who had been designated to pitch against his Worthington Cubs Sunday night, he knew the Cubs’ chances of splitting their home-away doubleheader significantly dipped.

In their early-afternoon game in Worthington against Fox Lake, the Cubs lost 8-4 despite collecting 14 hits. Now, the Cubs had to beat one of the best pitchers in the First Nite League, in Windom, to get their only win of the day.

Not likely. While Worthington lost to Fox Lake, the Pirates were in the process of beating Mountain Lake 2-1 as Collin’s younger brother, Kobe, pitched a strong six innings. The win gave Windom a 15-2 First Nite League record and, more importantly, clinched the regular season league championship.

In Game Two the elder Lovell was set to go, and the tall, hard-throwing right-hander didn’t disappoint the home-town fans. He struck out the first four Worthington batters he faced, in fact, and finished with 10 strikeouts (with only one walk) in a route-going seven-inning performance where only two Pirates hit safely.

The final score was 9-1.

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“He really throws hard. I don’t know if he’s got a slider or a curve ball, but it looks like a fastball when it comes in, and it’s hard to pick up,” said Swanson. “When you go up against a Lovell, you know your chances go down a bit.”

If the Pirates don’t possess the best pitching depth in southwest Minnesota, they’re close. Their top four pitchers -- both Lovells, Ross Ackerman and Luke Gilbertson -- constitute a first wave that is as good as it gets.

“We’re right up there with some of the best pitching in the league. We’ve got very good depth,” confessed Windom player-coach Nick Kulseth, who soon will turn his attention to getting his Pirates to the Minnesota state Class C tournament for the first time since 2018.

For much of Sunday’s late game, the Cubs held their own against the Pirates. Granted, Lovell kept their offense off-balance most of the way, but in the top of the sixth inning they managed to score. After their first two batters made outs, center-fielder Ethan Duffy pulled a soft line drive single to right field for the first Cubs hit. Then, first baseman Tyler Linder muscled a scorching blast to the left-center field fence for a three-bagger. Next up, Swanson hit the ball well, but it was caught in left for the last out.

Worthington’s starter, right-hander Ryan Lee, pitched well through four innings, allowing three hits and three runs. The first Windom run was scored in the bottom of the first as Nick Christensen drilled a one-out single and later scored on a ground ball to shortstop. In the fourth, two more runs crossed the plate -- one from third on a ground out, and the other from third again on a swinging bunt by Christensen down the third base line that went for a hit.

Triston Sauerbrei, relieving Lee to begin the fifth, sent down the Pirate hitters in order. But in the sixth, two Worthington errors led to six Windom runs as Sauerbrei, then Linder, tried in vain to limit the damage. An RBI double by center-fielder Brett Willaby, an RBI single by Christensen, a two-run double by Alex Fink, and an RBI single by Sam Huska were the big hits.

For the Pirates, winning the league’s regular season isn’t enough.

“The goal is to make that state tournament,” Kulseth said.

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Fox Lake 8, Worthington 4

R-H-E

Fox Lake 220 200 2 -- 8 9 1

Worthington 100 200 1 -- 4 14 0

Windom 9, Worthington 1

R-H-E

Worthington 000 001 0 -- 1 2 2

Windom 100 206 x -- 9 10 0

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071121 N DG Worthington Cubs vs Fox Lake Foxes S2.jpg
Umpire calls safe as Worthington Cubs second baseman Easton Sauerbrei just misses the tag on Fox Lake Foxes Blake Buntjer as he slid safe onto the base after a hit out to the fence allowed a runner on third base to score During a Sunday game at the Minnesota West Baseball field 07 11 21. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

What To Read Next
Friday night high school sports roundup:
WORTHINGTON – Injuries and fouls plagued the Worthington Trojans girl’s basketball team in a Big South Conference contest against stalwart St. Peter on Friday night. The Saints defeated the Trojans 74-53.
WORTHINGTON – The top 10 teams in Minnesota Class A high school gymnastics will be in Worthington on Saturday (Jan. 28) for the state True Team meet. Participating teams are Becker, Benson, Big Lake, Byron, Detroit Lakes, Mankato West, Melrose, New London-Spicer, St. Peter, and Worthington.
Tom Goehle, son of legendary coach Hugo Goehle, was once a star athlete at Hills-Beaver Creek High School. Now he gives back through coaching and his involvement in Fellowship of Christian Athletes.