Knocks on wood

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2003

NEW RICHLAND &045; With a wooden-bat doubleheader at Minneota set for Saturday, the NRHEG American Legion baseball team got an early start.

Using wooden bats in a home game with Byron, NRHEG won 2-0, then went on to sweep Minneota 8-0 and 2-1.

&uot;You could tell the difference, but we swung the wood well,&uot; said NRHEG coach Jeff Reese.

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Ben Groth was 2-for-2 and scored a run, Jason Churchill was 1-for-2 with a run. Joey Balfe went 1-for-3 and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

Winning pitcher Dave Bakken went five innings, giving up three hits and three walks. He struck out two. Paul Johnson pitched the final two innings to earn a save.

&uot;Defensively, we played one of our best games,&uot; said Reese. &uot;We made the routine plays but also made three or four exceptional plays.&uot;

Balfe had the hot bat in game one at Minneota, going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Mike Hullopeter was 1-for-2 and had the game’s first RBI. Hullopeter also pitched three innings for the win. Taylor Greenwood threw three hitless innings in relief, with four strikeouts and no walks.

&uot;Offensively, we executed well on the bases and moved the runners along,&uot; said Reese. &uot;Defensively, we shut out our opponent for the second consecutive game.&uot;

Zak Tracy drove in the winning run in the second game, hitting into a sixth-inning error. Churchill was 2-for-3, Hullopeter 1-for-3 with a double, Brett Wangsness 1-for-2 with two runs, Greenwood 1-for-2 with an RBI and Groth 1-for-2.

Brady Hullopeter pitched all six innings, giving up one earned run on two hits. He walked three and struck out six.

&uot;We committed no errors and played superb defense,&uot; said Reese. &uot;We had zero strikeouts, which means we are adjusting our swings with two strikes.&uot;

Reese said a highlight for him was facing Kevin Larson’s team. Larson, a 1993 NRHEG graduate who played baseball for Reese, now coaches and teaches at Minneota.