Tigers move to 3-0 with sweep of Packers

Published 8:33 am Friday, April 10, 2009

Albert Lea matched last year’s win total Thursday with a pair of wins over Austin at Hayek Field.

The Tigers defeated the Packers 4-2 in the first game of the doubleheader and picked up a 12-4 victory in the second game.

“A nice start to the season,” said Albert Lea head coach Joe Sczublewski. “The boys are happy. They brought that up in our postgame conference and they’re all smiles about it.”

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The Tigers faced an Austin team with seven seniors in the starting lineup, including starting pitcher Mark Harber, but jumped on him early.

Logan Kortan has posted some pretty good numbers against Austin’s Mark Harber in the past and he continued that Thursday at Hayek Field.

Albert Lea (3-0, 2-0 Big Nine) got off to a 2-0 lead after the first inning after designated hitter Colby Strilaeff drove in catcher Luke Grossman and third baseman Jordan Cooper brought Logan Kortan across to score on a double to the wall in left center.

Kortan had a strong day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored. In the third inning he connected on an opposite field home run that proved to be the game-winner. Kortan has had Harber’s number in the past.

Last summer, Kortan faced Harber in an American Legion game and went 3-for-3 with a triple.

This time Kortan’s double and solo homer in the third inning helped the Tigers beat the Packers 4-2.

Albert Lea’s inexperience hasn’t proved to be a factor in any games yet this season, but it’s also been something the team hasn’t really dwelled on.

“I think a lot of us really don’t care that we’re a young ball team,” Kortan said. “We just play fundamentally tough and everyone just contributes a lot.”

Kortan got the start on the mound and pitched five effective innings, striking out six and surrendering two runs on four hits.

Sophomore Aaron Klatt came on in the sixth inning and shut the door on Austin. Klatt struck out three and allowed just one hit in two innings of work.

“Aaron Klatt came in and just slammed the door down on them,” Sczublewski said. “That was key. That was a 3-2 game at the point he came in and he just stuck it to them.”

Klatt has come on in relief twice in the three games the Tigers have played and it’s a role he relishes.

“That’s what I like best,” he said.

He’s been effective thus far. He’s allowed two hits in three innings and struck out four hitters.

In the second game Albert Lea benefited from erratic pitching. The Tigers drew four walks in the first inning and scored six runs.

“In all three of our games we’ve had a nice start,” Sczublewski said. “Hopefully that continues.”

Albert Lea starter Colby Strilaeff breezed through the first four innings. He allowed just one hit in the first four innings, but ran into some trouble in the fifth.

The Packers scored four runs in the frame after Strilaeff walked the leadoff batter. Preston Higbe eventually came around to score on a passed ball and Austin drew the game to 8-4, but it wouldn’t be that close for long.

The Tigers responded in the bottom half for four runs of their own with four straight base hits, including two consecutive doubles and a triple.

Jordan Mondeel was a catalyst for Albert Lea out of the leadoff spot once again. Mondeel scored two runs, drove in a pair of runs and finished 2-for-3 with a pair of walks.

It’s been quite the start for a ball club that struggled to find wins last season.

“It feels real good,” Strilaeff said. “We’re just continuing our success from the VFW team and hopefully we continue this throughout the season. We know that the schedule is going to get a lot tougher, but we’re continuing to improve.”

Sczublewski knows the schedule will get more difficult, especially with four games scheduled next week, including a game against Mayo, one of the favorites to win the conference this season.

“We’re going to have to rely on good pitching and making the plays in the field to stay in the games here and that’s what we’re doing right now,” Sczublewski said. “We know we have a tough road ahead of us too, but boy, for the first three games of the year we couldn’t be much more proud of the kids.”

Albert Lea travels to Faribault Monday to play a doubleheader with the Falcons.

Game 1

Albert Lea 4, Austin 2

Austin — 000 200 0 — 2 5 2

Albert Lea — 201 001 x — 4 5 2

WP — Logan Kortan 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

LP — Mark Harber 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

Game 2

Albert Lea 12, Austin 4

Austin — 000 040 0 — 4 4 2

Albert Lea — 611 040 x — 12 10 2

WP — Colby Strilaeff 7 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K