Tigers edge the Panthers, win home opener
Published 2:06 pm Saturday, April 16, 2016
Albert Lea perseveres despite injury, field changes
The Tigers managed to hang on and win their home opener, but not without hurdles along the way.
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The Albert Lea baseball team defeated NRHEG 7-6 Friday at Hayek Field.
The game started out close and stayed that way, with both the Tigers and the Panthers picking up two runs in the first inning.
Tigers catcher Alex Bledsoe injured his hamstring on a run-scoring double early on in the game. The junior being out for the rest of the game resulted in some defensive changes. Parker Mullenbach was moved from the infield to behind the plate to fill in for Bledsoe, even without having practiced the position recently, according to Albert Lea coach Joe Sczublewski. The veteran Tigers coach said Mullenbach did a great job in unfamiliar territory, even throwing out a runner attempting to steal.
“He could play any position on the field and do well,” Sczublewski said of the senior. “He stepped up and filled in admirably.”
While Sczublewski said there were some weaknesses with the change in defensive positioning, he credited shortstop Jake Thompson with another strong performance. The senior was also an offensive leader for the Tigers, going 3-4 at the plate with three runs scored, an RBI and four stolen bases.
Other run scorers for Albert Lea were Jack Buendorf, Mason Hammer, Sam Moyer and Taylor Heavner. Mullenbach batted in two runs, with Hammer and Heavner also having an RBI each. Heavner drove Moyer in for the winning run with a suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“I tip my hat to Heavner,” NRHEG coach Drew Paukert said. “We expected the suicide was coming in the seventh and he did an excellent job of not only getting it down, but placing it in a great spot.”
While Heavner and Parker Andersen were each on the mound for the Tigers, it was Moyer who recorded the win. The senior didn’t allow a single hit or run in his two-inning appearance, while walking one and striking out one.
Eli Lutgens recorded the loss on the mound for the Panthers, allowing five earned runs on six hits, while walking three and striking out two.
Cole Staloch was an offensive force for the Panthers, going 2-4 with a double and two runs scored. John Hubly went 1-3 and also scored two runs; with CJ Schiltz going 2-4 and picking up a run scored, an RBI and a stolen base. Trai Wicks contributed 2 RBIs with his 2-2 appearance at the plate for NRHEG.
“Offensively, we were able to give our pitchers some support,” Paukert saud. “I thought we did a nice job of putting the ball in play and cutting down on the strikeouts.”
Both Sczublewski and Paukert had nothing but positive things to say about each other and their respective teams.
“You have to admire how gritty NRHEG played,” Sczublewski said. “They really battled.”
“Overall, I was pleased with the effort the boys gave tonight,” Paukert said. “Joe has a great team, and it was nice to see us compete with them the entire game.”
Next, Albert Lea (2-1 overall, 1-1 Big Nine Conference) will go on the road to face Red Wing at 5 p.m. Monday, a game that was previously postponed. The Wingers (2-0, 2-0) were set to play Mahtomedi on Saturday. The game’s results were unavailable as of press time.
NRHEG (0-4, 0-3 Gopher Conference), will host Medford at 5 p.m. Monday. The (Medford) Tigers (2-4, 1-2) are coming off of a 6-4 loss to Tri-City United from Friday.