Prep baseball: Worthington shakes off jitters for win

WORTHINGTON -- It didn't matter if Carson Hagen prefers being a starting pitcher or a closer. On Tuesday, the senior on Worthington's baseball team got to do both. Hagen threw the first two innings and returned to the mound for the final two outs...

JESSE TRELSTAD/DAILY GLOBE Worthington’s Roque Soto (9) beats the ball by sliding into third against Heron Lake-Okabena Tuesday evening. The Trojans took a 6-3 victory over the Wildcats in the season opener for both teams.

WORTHINGTON - It didn’t matter if Carson Hagen prefers being a starting pitcher or a closer.
On Tuesday, the senior on Worthington’s baseball team got to do both.
Hagen threw the first two innings and returned to the mound for the final two outs as the Trojans earned a 6-3 season-opening victory over Heron Lake-Okabena.
“I think we played well,” Hagen said. “We got the win. I think we can improve in every area. We have a solid team here. Hitting, pitching, all of us could do better. I have high hopes for this team. I think we were all anxious out there, so we were a little giddy and maybe we were trying to throw too hard or try to hit too hard. I think we played well, we got the job done, but I think we can play better.”
Hagen didn’t allow an earned run and struck out four in two and two-thirds innings.
“I wasn’t expecting much jitters, but when I got out there, I felt a little bit,” Hagen said of his first outing. “It was the first pitch of the year, so I guess I was a little nervous. But luckily, I threw pretty decent. I would have liked to have my curveball a little better than what it was. My fastball was there, but I still walked a couple batters, which I shouldn’t be doing.”
Issuing free passes was an issue for the Trojan pitchers all day.
“(We need to improve) our pitching for sure, we walked too many batters,” WHS outfielder Logan Thuringer said. “We have to sharpen up the hitting. Our fielding was pretty good today, we didn’t have any errors.”
And while the WHS fielding was nearly perfect, the Wildcats, who were playing without a few key seniors, committed six errors.
“It was the first time out,” HL-O head coach Kevin Rogers said. “We had a few jitters, we are young. We’ll get our seniors back and that will make us a little stronger. Overall, we did all right. A few hits here and there and you never know what will happen.”
Hits were tough to come by for both teams, and each managed just six apiece.
“I don’t know if it was the off-speed stuff and we were so anxious to hit, but we’re usually a pretty good hitting team,” Hagen said. “It is what it is. It’s the first game and we got the win. We can play better than what we did.”
The Trojans’ offense started with a bang in the bottom of the first as Thuringer doubled to lead off the game. It was the only extra base hit of the game.
“It felt really good to start the season off. I hope I keep it up,” Thuringer said. “I think we were all just a little nervous. We haven’t seen the live pitching that we see in a game. I think it was just first-game jitters.”
Tucker Sorenson followed with a walk, and Nathan Braaksma reached on a fielder’s choice. Sorenson scored the Trojans’ first run of the game on an error and Braaksma later scored on an error as WHS led 2-0 after the first.
No more runs crossed the plate until the third.
With one out, Roque Soto drew a walk and went to third on Hagen’s single. Soto scored on Easton Sauerbrei’s single, pushing the score to 3-0. King Blanchette drove in Hagen with an RBI sacrifice fly, giving WHS a 4-0 lead.
The Wildcats were able to get on the board in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Ethan Becker drew a walk off of WHS pitcher Nathan Russell. Dave Volk followed with a walk and Logan Knutson drove in a run with an RBI single, cutting the deficit to 4-1.
Soto scored his second run of the game in the fifth after reaching on a single. He would later score on a wild pitch.
HL-O had another opportunity in the sixth off WHS’ Soto. Becker and Volk had back-to-back two-out singles and Knutson drew a walk to load the bases. However, Soto was able to get a fly out to end the threat.
“It was the first outing and kids were a little anxious,” WHS head coach Stacy Sauerbrei said. “That’s to be expected. Anytime you walk that number of players, it probably has a lot to do with being a little bit nervous. I think our pitchers were almost too into it at times. To their defense, we were able to pitch out of most of the jams.”
The Trojans added an insurance run in the sixth. Thuringer collected his second hit of the game to lead off the inning. He then stole second and third before scoring on Shawn Hurley’s RBI sacrifice fly.
“In a game like this, base running was really the difference,” Stacy Sauerbrei said. “We were able to take a few extra ones just by being aggressive.”
Trailing 6-1 heading into the last inning, the Wildcats had one rally left.
With one out, Marcelo Esqueda was hit with a pitch and Ryan DeWall drew a walk. Brady Haberman singled, loading the bases for Adam Hietbrink.
The sophomore made the most of his opportunity and drove in a run with an RBI single, cutting the deficit to four runs.
With the bases still loaded, Hagen was brought back in.
“(I was thinking) just throw strikes, don’t have passed balls,” Hagen said. “You don’t want to give them any meatballs, but you don’t want to have passed balls and anything get away from you.”
He got Becker to fly out, but Volk walked to bring in another run.
However, Hagen was able to close the door for the WHS victory.
The Wildcats will host Minneota Monday, while the Trojans host Fairmont Tuesday.
HL-O 000 100 2 - 3 6 5
WHS 200 201 1 - 6 6 0

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