Tigers cruise in section opener

Published 9:49 pm Saturday, May 28, 2011

Albert Lea starting pitcher Aaron Klatt throws a pitch Saturday during the sixth inning of a 7-1 win over Winona at Hayek Field. Albert Lea avoided another first-round upset and advanced to today’s Section 1AAA quarterfinal against Rochester Mayo. Albert Lea beat Rochester Mayo twice this season. -- Andrew Dyrdal

The Albert Lea Tigers baseball team left little doubt Saturday in their Section 1AAA Tournament-opening win over the Winona Winhawks at Hayek Field.

Conner Kortan went 3-for-3 with a double, and Aaron Klatt struck out three batters as the Tigers won 7-1 and advanced to Monday’s section quarterfinal against Rochester Mayo at home.

The Tigers scored two runs in each of the game’s first three innings but left the bases loaded in the bottom of the first. Those lost runs wouldn’t matter, though, as the Tigers led 7-1 by the bottom of the fifth.

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“Run support is always great,” Tigers starting pitcher Aaron Klatt said. “You can go up to the mound and don’t have to strike out anybody. It builds up your confidence, too, because if they get one or two runs you’re still up.”

Klatt held the Winhawks scoreless through the first eight outs until Zach Benson scored Brandon Beech on an infield single to third base.

The Winhawks nearly had another infield hit to third, which would of loaded the bases with two outs, when Kyle Jack hit a slow rolling grounder to J.T. Bellrichard. Bellrichard scooped up the ball and made a hard, running throw toward first which just beat the runner.

After scoring two runs in the first inning, the Tigers’ Bellrichard and Kortan led off the bottom of the second with a pair of walks.

Cory Hansen then hit a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher, advancing both runners into scoring position, before Klatt scored Bellrichard on a ground out to shortstop.

Sorenson knocked in Kortan with a single to left field, stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error during Ethan Abben’s at bat. Abben was hit by a pitch before Makael Lunning grounded out to end the inning.

Josh Eisenbraun led off the bottom of the third with a walk and moved to second base off Cody Haaland’s sacrifice bunt.

Haaland reached first on a fielding error by the Winhawks’ first baseman, and both runners advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Bellrichard.

Kortan blooped a single to center field to score Eisenbraun and move Haaland to third before the Tigers stole a run during the next at bat.

With Hansen at the plate, Kortan took off for second base. When catcher Jordan Romine attempted to throw out Kortan stealing, Haaland took off for home and scored without a play at the plate. Kortan was then called out at first base.

After the Tigers built a 6-0 lead through three innings, Winhawks coach Matt Smith lifted starting pitcher Bryan Rohde for Lance Jensen, who held the Tigers scoreless for the first time in the fourth inning.

In the fifth inning, Haaland scored the Tigers’ final run off a squeeze bunt by Bellrichard.

The Tigers played Rochester Mayo at 1 p.m. today at Hayek Field in the Section 1AAA quarterfinals. The Tigers swept Mayo in two games during the regular season, winning 5-1 on April 7 in Rochester and 7-2 on May 3 at Hayek Field.

Albert Lea 7, Winona 1

W 001 000 0 — 1 7 4

AL 222 010 x — 7 8 1

WP — Aaron Klatt 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO

LP — Bryan Rohde 3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO

Albert Lea hitting: Conner Kortan 3-3, 2B, R; Cory Hansen 1-3, R, SO; Aaron Klatt 0-3, RBI, SO; Cole Sorenson 1-3, RBI; Ethan Abben 1-2, BB, SO; Makael Lunning 0-3; Josh Eisenbraun 0-2, R, BB; Cody Haaland 1-2, 2B, 2 R, BB; J.T. Bellrichard 0-0, R, RBI.