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Still fighting: Lacking depth, West baseball and softball teams press on with good talent

The Minnesota West baseball and softball teams lost doubleheaders on Wednesday, but as the season winds down they continue to impress with their talent

Minnesota West Lady Jays head softball coach Jeff Jager takes a moment to talk strategy with players at a Wednesday doubleheader with Rochester.
Minnesota West Lady Jays head softball coach Jeff Jager takes a moment to talk strategy with players at a Wednesday doubleheader with Rochester.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- Sports teams need at least two qualities to win consistently: talent and depth.

The Minnesota West baseball and softball squads have one of those two things. There is plenty of talent on the Bluejays and Lady Jays clubs this spring. If only there were a little more depth, who knows what kind of records they could fashion.

Minnesota West Lady Jays Mallory Thorson raises her glove to catch a deep fly ball during a Wednesday double header.with visiting RCTC Rochester Yellowjackets.
Minnesota West's Mallory Thorson raises her glove to catch a deep fly ball Wednesday at the local college softball field.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

The Lady Jays are basically 10 players strong. One of their top players is workhorse pitcher Julia Schmoker, who was hobbled with an ankle sprain in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader with Rochester. As a result, head coach Jeff Jager decided not to use her to pitch the second game.

Yet, the Lady Jays were competitive in their two games at the local college field. They lost the first game with Rochester 6-4 after giving up five runs in the top of the first inning. They lost the second game 4-1.

The West women were 10-10 on the season through Wednesday. A couple of the players do not come from a softball background. But they’re good athletes, and that’s getting them pretty far, in fact.

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Minnesota West Lady Jays Macie Verdel (8) slides safe into second base as RCTC Rochester Yellowjackets Payton Fox (9) and Abigail Scanlan look for the throw during a Wednesday double header.
Minnesota West's Macie Werdel (8) slides safely into second base as RCTC Rochester's Payton Fox (9) and Abigail Scanlan look for the throw during a Wednesday double header.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

“All 10 of those losses were to three teams. Those three teams are St. Cloud Tech, Anoka-Ramsey and Rochester,” Jager pointed out. “And all three of those teams are top-tier teams.”

Meanwhile, the Minnesota West baseball team fell to 2-19 Wednesday in home losses to a good Century College outfit, 11-1 and 7-6. That’s progress. Powerful Century swept them by a combined score of 26-1 less than a week earlier. And in the first game Wednesday, the Bluejays trailed just 2-1 halfway through the contest.

Lack of depth -- particularly in the pitching department -- is a challenge for head coach Joe Kinley’s Minnesota West unit. But to their credit, he said, the Jays continue to play focused and competitive.

“Any time we get to the (bull)pen, it’s going to be tough,” he said. “But anytime we put our nine against their nine, we can compete.”

Wednesday wrapups:

Softball

Rochester 6-4, Lady Jays 4-1

A pair of errors -- the only errors Minnesota West made in the game -- helped the Yellowjackets plate five first inning runs in the opener. The Lady Jays did their best to fight back and make a game of it.

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Down 6-1 in the fifth, West scored three times. Steph Kazemba hit a line drive single to start the inning, then later scored. Emily Wilke scored the second run on a single from Schmoker that reached the left-center field fence. A Macie Werdel single drove in the third run.

Rochester, however, held on. Schmoker went the distance, allowing 11 hits while walking none and striking out two.

In the second game Rochester led 4-0 until West scored in the bottom of the sixth. Grace Suttle had two doubles in the game. Schmoker and Shelby Christensen also doubled.

Kazemba went the distance on the pitcher’s rubber, allowing 11 hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

The West women were scheduled to play at Ridgewater in a doubleheader on Friday (May 6), then host St. Cloud Tech on Saturday and Anoka-Ramsey on Monday.

Jager said on Thursday that’s he’s very pleased with his team’s positive attitude and cohesiveness. On the field -- though the talent is there -- some players still struggle in a few positions due to a lack of experience. Baserunning is a work in progress, and “softball IQ” is, too.

“But it’s getting better,” he said.

Baseball

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Century 11-7, Bluejays 1-6

Minnesota West was every bit Century’s equal at the first game’s midpoint. And some heads-up play by the Bluejays got them their only run.

In the fourth, designated hitter Kent Lais belted a one-out double. Later, with two out, a very high pop-up in the infield was misjudged. By the time it fell to the ground near the pitcher’s mound, Lais’ motor was still churning. He scored on a hustling sprint around third base to home plate, beating the throw on a very close play.

Alas, Century ran away with the game in the last two innings.

Minnesota West’s starting pitcher, Jaxson Smith-Peterson, performed admirably in the first half of the contest.

In the second game, too, West was competitive. The Bluejays led, in fact, 6-5 after six innings. Century scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning to win.

Kinley credited pitcher Andy Wurstser with hurling a strong game for six-plus innings. Ben Leal, Rodrigo Santa and Jobeth Diaz did well with their bats.

The Bluejays close their regular season Saturday with a home doubleheader against Western Tech, then they play another doubleheader Sunday on the road against Tech.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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