Park baseball: Wolfpack hands East Ridge first lossThe Park baseball team earned its first win of the young season on Thursday, April 21, 8-5 over rival and previously unbeaten East Ridge in the Suburban East Conference at East Ridge High School.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
What’s the old saying about throwing records out the window?
The Park baseball team earned its first win of the young season on Thursday, April 21, 8-5 over rival and previously unbeaten East Ridge in the Suburban East Conference at East Ridge High School.
The win was the first for first-year Park head coach Kerry Ligtenberg.
“I was a little worried I was going to go 0-20,” Ligtenberg joked. “But, it was good to get it out of the way. We played pretty well. These guys (East Ridge) are a pretty good squad, so it’s a good win for us overall.”
Sparked by a two-run, first-inning home run by senior Jordan McGowan, Park (1-4; 1-4 SEC) built a 6-2 lead through 41/2 innings. However, East Ridge (6-1; 4-1 SEC) scored a run in the bottom of the fifth inning and two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to cut its deficit to 6-5. But, Park tacked on two runs in the top of the seventh inning to earn some breathing room and senior pitcher Luke Wincentsen shut the door on the powerful Raptors’ lineup.
“You don’t want to go 0-for-forever, so it’s good to get a win,” Ligtenberg said. “We’ve had two extra-inning losses that are tough, but they can help mold the team. We could have easily been 2-2. We’re still sloppy, but we’re getting better, we’re hitting better and we’re pitching pretty good. We’ll get more competitive as the season goes on.”
Park senior Jordan Jeske said the win felt “fantastic.”
“It was nice to beat the top team in our conference and get our first win and hand them their first loss,” Jeske said. “We know we have the talent to beat any team, it’s just that mental errors in the field really killed us the first four games.”
McGowan was 3-for-3 with the home run, three RBI and two runs scored in the game to lead the way for Park. Park senior Max Bundschu earned the win on the mound, going 5 2/3 innings scattering seven hits, allowing two earned runs, walking one and striking out one. Bundschu helped himself out with his bat, going 3-for-4 with two RBI. Wincentsen pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief allowing no hits and no runs, striking out one.
Additionally, Kyle Fritz, Joe Cocchiarella and Jake Carrigan each had a hit, a run and an RBI and Spencer Diedrich and Drew Flack each had hits. Diedrich had one run and Flack had two runs scored.
“Everyone was into the game to be honest,” Jeske said. “We got some great pitching and McGowan hit that two-run homer that kind of got us going. It’s always nice to get a win over East Ridge in anything. No matter what, it’s always going to be a close game with East Ridge because of the rivalry.”
East Ridge head coach Brian Sprout said Park seemed more up for the game than his team.
“We just weren’t ready mentally as much as we should have been,” Sprout said. “They played a really good ballgame and were ready to go. They made a few more plays than we did and that was the difference in the game.”
Sprout said he didn’t feel that the difference in the two teams’ records had much to do with the difference in energy and the outcome.
“First and foremost they’re kids and it’s a lot of work for them to focus 365 days a year,” Sprout said. “There are going to be ups and downs. It’s kind of how they respond when they have those downs.”
For East Ridge, Ryan Betz was 3-for-4 with a double, a triple, an RBI and two runs scored, Andy Sammon was 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored, Tom Drtina was 1-for-3 with a double, a run and an RBI and Mitch Luebbe and Jack Leviska had singles.
Into the game, East Ridge had been scoring an average of 7.83 runs per game, while allowing 3.83 runs per game, going 6-0.
Sprout is looking forward to seeing how his team responds to the loss.
“They’ve got to get a little ticked off that they didn’t play as well as they wanted to and they have to show up next week and be ready to play,” Sprout said.
East Ridge traveled to Roseville (1-3; 0-3 SEC) on Monday, April 25, and Mounds View (3-2; 3-2 SEC) on Tuesday, April 26, after the Bulletin went to press. The Raptors will play host to third-ranked Forest Lake (3-2; 3-2 SEC) on Wednesday, April 27, at East Ridge, before traveling to fifth-ranked Stillwater (5-2; 4-2 SEC) on Friday, April 29.
Park took on Forest Lake on Monday, April 25, after the Bulletin went to press. The Wolfpack next welcomes Mounds View to Park High School on Wednesday, April 27, and fourth-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall (1-3; 1-3 SEC) on Thursday, April 28, at Granville Smith Field, before going to Roseville on Friday, April 29.
Ligtenberg is hoping the East Ridge win helps his team gain momentum.
“We still played crappy defense (against East Ridge), but we were able to make plays when we had to and get some key hits,” Ligtenberg said. “We played tough today and we’re getting better. We’ve battled so far this year and we’re seeing who is competitive and who on our team wants to play and has some fire. I’m just focused on the second half of the year and getting us to play our best by the end.”