Tigers keep cool against West

Published 2:09 am Friday, May 7, 2010

Poise and perseverance paid off for the Albert Lea baseball team Thursday in its rousing victory over Mankato West at Hayek Field.

A boisterous Mankato West dugout couldn’t unnerve Albert Lea and it kept its poise to pick up a gritty 4-2 victory.

The Tigers (10-3, 9-3 Big Nine) won a tight ballgame with hustle plays and a gutsy pitching performance from junior starter Cole Sorenson.

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Albert Lea grabbed control of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. With the game tied at 2-2 and sophomore Dalton Westerlund on third base with one out and senior Jordan Cooper at the plate the Tigers made the most of a dropped third strike.

Cooper swung at strike three, but Scarlets catcher Drew Weber dropped the pitch and Cooper sprinted for first base. Weber overthrew the first baseman and it allowed Westerlund to score the game-winning run from third. Cooper advanced to second and scored one batter later when Sorenson hit an RBI double to give Albert Lea a 4-2 lead.

“It’s one of those plays where some kids may not even run it out,” said Tigers head coach Joe Sczublewski. “That’s why you run it out.”

Cooper went hitless, but his play ended up just as good as a hit.

“Not getting a hit it always makes you a little frustrated,” Cooper said. “But when you can get on base by taking a ball for the team, getting hit, then even hustling out a strikeout that’s usually an out, it feels good.”

Senior third baseman Colby Strilaeff gave the Tigers an early 1-0 lead in the second inning with a lead-off solo homer to right center field. But West (7-4. 7-4 Big Nine) rallied in the third to tie the game when Nick Kaus scored on an error.

Sorenson settled in on the mound and allowed just two hits in the next two innings.

The Tigers regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth when junior shortstop Carter Kortan made a hustle play of his own. Kortan got a lead-off walk and senior left fielder Jordan Mondeel laid down a sacrifice bunt along the third base line. Kortan turned for third when he noticed the third baseman off the bag and scored when West made an errant throw attempting to get him at third base.

“That’s just a head’s up play on his part,” Sczublewski said. “You try to get after the kids to play aggressively and take a chance. Sometimes it backfires, but more times than not it doesn’t. It makes things happen.”

The Scarlets came back in the sixth inning when left fielder Adam Sik got a two-out single and second baseman Lucas Ohme tied the game with a double.

That spelled the end for Sorenson who dealt with the constant West chatter and didn’t allow a walk after the third inning. Sorenson gave up two runs, one earned, on six hits and struck out four in 5 2-3 innings.

“He’s a focus pitcher and the way they were yelling and screaming they were trying to rattle him and he was able to hold his composure and he pitched excellent,” Sczublewski said.

Sorenson said the chatter spurred the Tigers.

“I think we wanted it a little more, especially because they were hooting and hollering,” Sorenson said.

Junior Aaron Klatt came on in relief and struck out the next batter to end the inning and got the win in relief after retiring the side in the sixth and seventh.

The victory sets up a showdown for the Tigers with first-place Owatonna, the team that knocked them out of the section playoffs last season, Tuesday in a doubleheader in Owatonna. Albert Lea needs a sweep of the Huskies to overtake first place.

Albert Lea 4, Mankato West 2

Mankato West 001 001 0 — 2 6 3

Albert Lea 010 012 x — 4 5 3

WP—Aaron Klatt 1 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

LP—Matt Anderson 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K