by Chris Walden
Four St. Francis pitchers threw a combined two-hit shutout to lead the Saints past the Rockford River Bandits 1-0 in season opening Town Ball action.
Jake Draeger started the April 22 season opener for the Saints, striking out six in three innings. Andrew “Wild Thing” Polum picked up the win after three strong innings. Ryan Kraft pitched the ninth, earning a save.
“It was a well pitched game, from both sides,” said Saints’ co-manager Chris Carpenter. “A cool, light drizzle fell for much of the game, which may have helped keep the offenses sluggish,” he said.
The game’s lone run was scored during an eighth inning mini rally sparked by Luther Kangas’ one out double that was nearly caught by a diving left fielder. Derek Williamson followed with a single, but Kangas was thrown out at the plate by an excellent throw from the same left fielder. That brought up Jimmy Nelson, who took a 1-0 pitch to deep right-center, doubling in Williamson.
“I was just ready to go home,” Nelson later joked. “I’m going to hurt tomorrow.” Nelson played in just one game last year.
Kangas finished the game with tree hits to lead St. Francis; Williams had two. “There weren’t many strikeouts. The bats will come around,” said Carpenter.
Rockford’s only threat to score came in the second inning, when Lance Reynolds singled, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Dreager then struck out Diedrich to end the inning.
Both teams played well defensively, despite a soggy wet field from the the drizzle and previous day’s rain.
St. Francis’s next game, scheduled for April 28, has the Saints up against the Albertville Villains.
Fusion starts season strong in Elmwood
Blaine kicked off the new year with a convincing 9-3 win against the Elmwood (Wisconsin) Expos.
Shane Bushland pitched six shutout innings for the Fusion, striking out nine to get the win. Dan Mossey had two hits, and Dan Powell scored three runs to lead Blaine’s offense.
The Fusion made the best of eight hits by drawing seven walks and taking advantage of five Elmwood errors.
Blaine played the Twin City Blue Sox April 26, then a double header in Champlin April 28.
The Bucs return just about everyone from last year’s 11-7 squad, and could be this season’s breakout squad after a trip to last year’s regionals.. The move to Class B is welcomed by the Bucs, who enter their fourth season.
Anoka’s pitching staff is anchored by Ryan Picotte (Andover), who posted a 1.17 ERA in seven starts last season. They also expect a larger role by Jacob Anderson (Anoka) who gave up only two runs in 21 innings. Reliever Michael Harworth (Anoka) had five saves.
The Bucs welcome back third baseman Mitch Ward’s (Anoka) .413 batting average and shortstop Kyle Boughner’s (Anoka) 26 RBI. Boughner and second baseman JD Wells (Anoka) have been a potent double play duo since the team’s inception. Outfielder Ryan Doheny (Anoka) led last year’s squad with 25 stolen bases, just one shy of the league record.
Anoka will miss pitcher Alex Moses, who went 7-0 in nine starts. This years new faces will be led by pitcher Tyler Delwiche (Totino Grace). Delwiche is a 6’4” lefty freshman at St. Johns University.
The Bucs season begins May 18 when they visit the Rum River Bandits.
Chris Walden is all things CheapSeatsMN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org