Coming off a fourth place finish at the state tournament last June, Coon Rapids baseball coach Jerry Coe had an idea the 2014 season might not go so smoothly early on after graduating so many.
But after a 2-0 start to the spring, the Cardinals have really hit the skids with four straight games including a shutout for the third time in four games. The latest came at the hands of Wayzata, 6-0 on May 2, where pitcher Jack Sorensen tossed a two-hit complete game win and struck out 11 batters. He also didn’t issue a walk.
The Cardinals could only muster one run in an 11-1 loss to Maple Grove on April 22 or else the runs drought would be five games.
Elk River and Blaine kept the Cardinals bats quite, too.
“Guys that should be hitting and guys new to varsity aren’t,” Coe said, while the strikeouts against reached 56 in only six games and hit .178 as a team before Friday, in the unusually cold weather. “Coming into the season I thought pitching might be our downfall but it’s actually been okay.
“We can’t seem to generate anything right now.”
Not helping the cause was senior outfielder and Minnesota Gophers recruit Alex Boxwell who sat out the game for disciplinary reasons.
Last Friday’s game was a scheduled Northwest Suburban Conference and Lake Conference crossover game that was originally to be played under the lights at Wintercrest Field but was moved back to Coon Rapids High School at the last minute.
With the unpredictable weather, Coe said outdoor batting practice has been rare.
And it’s showing in the box scores.
The Cardinals had four base runners Friday night but couldn’t generate runs in the end.
Senior shortstop Zach Klitsch led off the first inning with a walk but was strained at second base.
Wayzata was first to score after starting pitcher Andy Clark hit back-to-back batters in the third inning.
Sorensen helped himself with a hit to left-centerfield that scored Connor Lindhardt to make it 1-0.
Junior catcher Justin Reeves blasted a double over the left fielder’s arm and took a bounce before the fence with one out. Klitsch flew out to shallow center field and Boone struck out to extinguish the scoring chance.
Wayzata’s Thomas Nettleton led off the fifth inning with a riffling hit to the right field fence. The Trojans worked some small-ball magic with a sacrifice bunt to move Nettleton to third base and scored on a sac fly to left field to make it 2-0.
Wayzata put the game well out of reach with a four-run, sixth inning to pull away.
Coon Rapids had four hits against Blaine and had very few base runners against Wayzata.
“We’ve been going inside, outside, inside and we haven’t been outside much,” Coe said about the unpredictable weather forcing a change in practice.
Sorensen followed up a shutout performance by Blaine pitcher Zach Rustad six days earlier by tossing a big curve and breaking ball that kept the Cardinals guessing in the batter’s box.
“We’re not that far off,” Coe said. “Our four errors hurt with two from our freshman pitcher and two from our rookie first baseman.
“Right now I don’t have any answers for our hitting.”
He added: “They hit the ball well all week at practice but I think it is in their head.”
Coon Rapids opened the season with a 3-2 win in eight innings against Armstrong, April 10.
The Cardinals scored twice in the bottom of the seventh inning with a pinch-hit double.
Early into the season, pitchers typically have the edge on batters figuring out how to catch up to the speed of a pitch or to wait on a fastball to hit. Combine that with the cooler conditions and the answer for more scoring might be in the calendar.
After each game Coe asks the team to grade the pitching, offense and defense.
“We haven’t had many A’s,” he said. “Our pitchers did okay today, probably a B.”
Jason Olson is at