Not an easy opener

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 7, 2004

By Garry Abben, Tribune Sports Writer

It wasn’t exactly the kind of start Albert Lea High School baseball coach Joe Sczublewski wanted for his squad this season.

The Tigers dropped both ends of a season-opening doubleheader to Mankato East at Hayek Field Tuesday.

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“We certainly didn’t play well today,” said Sczublewski. “We played poorly defensively. We know we can play at a higher level than we did today.”

In the opener, the Tigers spotted East an early four-run lead. Preston Dahl started the game on the hill for Albert Lea and kept the Tigers close after the early unearned runs.

In the third inning, singles by Albert Lea’s Don Graves and Brandon Klukow set the table for Ryan Truesdell’s single, scoring Graves to pull Albert Lea within three.

The Tigers were unable, however, to manufacture much offense against Cougar starter David Rivers, considered by many one of the better hurlers in the Big Nine. East went on to win 12-2.

&uot;Rivers is an accomplished pitcher, but we need to be more aggressive at the plate,&uot; said Sczublewski. &uot;I’m confident we’ll improve as the season goes along.&uot;

Senior Josh Diaz started the second game for the Tigers but was unable to throttle the Cougars’ potent offense. East scored five times in the first inning, putting the Tigers in a hole again.

Albert Lea fought back in the bottom of the second when Dahl and Tony Dugstad singled. Travis Klatt was the hit by a pitch, and Truesdell hit a sacrifice fly to score Dahl from third to make it 5-1.

The Cougars’ offense was just too much for Albert Lea the rest of the way, as East continued to hit the ball extremely well and went on to a 16-1 victory.

“We have a young team and made some mistakes today that we need to learn from,” said Sczublewski. “It’s a long season and I’m sure we can make the necessary adjustments to improve as a team.”

The Tigers travel to Owatonna Thursday to take on the Huskies.