Lakers come up short, but battle until the end

Published 11:34 pm Friday, June 9, 2017

Storm Lake takes home opener away from Albert Lea in 9th inning

The Albert Lea Lakers had to wait six days longer than what they had wanted for their home opener, but the weather was finally in their favor as they opened at Hayek Field on Friday.

Albert Lea’s offense struck for three runs in the first inning and the Lakers got four solid innings from Trevor Salmon, but the Storm Lake Whitecaps would get to the Lakers’ bullpen.

The Whitecaps scored nine runs off the Lakers’ bullpen, including Christian Pena delivering the game-winning hit with an RBI single in the top of the ninth inning to lead Storm Lake to a 9-8 win.

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The Lakers started fast in the opening inning.

Albert Lea’s Parker Mullenbach readies himself for an at-bat during Friday’s game at Hayek Field. – Jarrod Peterson/Albert Lea Tribune

After Jamell Newson was retired to start the inning, the Lakers worked consecutive walks against Stormcaps pitcher Cade Morning. With two on, Albert Lea got RBI singles from Jack Hemsath and Evan Kayser. Hemsath would come around to score on an error after Kayser’s hit, as the ball got away from catcher Christian Montero.

The three runs gave the Lakers an early cushion.

Albert Lea would add another run in the second inning to go up 4-0.

Salmon did his part in limiting the Whitecaps’ offense in his four innings, but as soon as he left, Storm Lake put together two straight innings in which it scored multiple runs.

Ryan Boelk came on in relief of Salmon and gave up three runs in the fifth and five in the sixth.

With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Storm Lake’s Enz Encarnacion hit a grounder to Evan Kayser. Kayser braced himself for an easy pick up, but the ball took a huge hop on the edge of the dirt between the infield and outfield grass and skipped over his head.

That allowed two runs to score. Another run scored on a wild pitch.

Albert Lea scored one run in the fifth, but left the bases loaded.

Down 5-3, Storm Lake used a two-out rally to take the lead.

Albert Lea’s Darek Sargent gets a lead off second base in the first inning. He homered to tie the game in the eighth inning. – Jarrod Peterson/Albert Lea Tribune

Back-to-back walks put runners on for Anthony Stewart, who laced an RBI double to the left centerfield gap. Casey Berg walked and that forced Albert Lea to change pitchers.

Brian Pirc came on to pitch with the bases loaded.

Encarnacion hit another ball to short that was muffed by Kayser. The error allowed two runs to score.

Christian Montero added to the Whitecaps’ momentum with a two-run single to complete the inning and give Storm Lake an 8-5 lead.

It wouldn’t take long for Albert Lea to respond, though.

In the bottom of the sixth, Derek Johnson hit a one-out single and then Jack Hemsath reached on a two-out error.

Kayser walked to bring up first baseman Freddy Gonzalez, who saw the first pitch he liked from Storm Lake pitcher Ryan Minnix and laced a two-run single to right.

Albert Lea completed its comeback when it tied the game in the eighth inning, thanks to a long home run to left field off the bat of Darek Sargent.

That blast would tie the game at 8-8.

But it would be the Whitecaps who would get the last laugh on opening night at Hayek Field.

In the ninth inning, Montero led off with a single off Albert Lea pitcher Blake Bagenstos.

Bagenstos would recover to retire the next two batters to put himself in a good position to get out of the inning. Montero stole second base on a close play to get into scoring position for Christian Pena, who on the next pitch cracked an RBI single that bounced over the third base bag and down the left field line.

That hit would keep the Whitecaps ahead for good, as Berg got out of a threat in the ninth.

With runners on third and second, Jamelle Newsome had a chance to tie or win the game with a hit to the outfield.

But Berg buckled down and got Newsome swining on a full count for the third out.

The loss drops the Lakers to 1-2 on the season.

Albert Lea will host Bancroft on Wednesday.

First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m.

Albert Lea Lakers starting pitcher Trevor Salmon delivers a pitch in the fourth inning Friday night. Salmon pitched four scoreless innings. – Jarrod Peterson/Albert Lea Tribune