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Cottage Grove VFW baseball: Team hopes for solid finish to season

The Cottage Grove VFW Post 8752 baseball team's hitting has improved during the season, head coach Scott Briggs said.

After an up-and-down start the Cottage Grove VFW Post 8752 baseball team is hoping for a solid finish to the 2012 season.

Cottage Grove started the season 2-2 behind two strong pitching performances by Braeden Cordts but then managed just one win in the next eight games, leaving the team a 3-10 record heading into a break over the Fourth of July.

"We started the season strong," said second-year head coach Scott Briggs. "Good pitching and timely hitting. Even our first few losses were well-played games."

A highlight of 2012 came last month when Cottage Grove blanked neighboring East Ridge 9-0 in a June 7 home game. Cottage Grove jumped out to a 7-0 edge after three innings and added another pair of runs in the sixth inning.

"It was a very big win for the boys," Briggs said. "They came ready to play that day. We hit well, pitched well and played good defense."

Cordts had a standout game against East Ridge. He allowed eight hits but kept East Ridge scoreless as he earned the shutout victory. From the plate, Cordts went 3-for-4 with two runs.

"Braeden has had a great start," Briggs said. "He gave up no runs in the first two games."

Cordts also pitched in Cottage Grove's season-opening 8-0 victory against Inver Grove Heights on May 31.

Cottage Grove's opening 2-2 record included the East Ridge and Inver Grove Heights victories and a 10-9 June 2 loss to Lake Elmo and a 12-5 defeat to Mendota Heights June 5.

A 9-7 loss to South St. Paul on June 8 was followed by lopsided losses to Hastings and Mahtomedi.

"We had a lot of games in a short period of time, with four pitchers to start the season," Briggs said. "I think it finally caught up to us into our third week. Then the errors started piling up and causing our losses."

The team tallied 10 errors in one game earlier this season and recorded five errors in two other games.

Cottage Grove returned from a five-day break to beat visiting Maplewood 4-2 on June 16. Pitcher Jerrick Drude-Smith allowed two runs on eight hits as he earned the win.

Briggs said that as the season progressed the players have been hitting better overall. The fielding has improved but still needs work, he said.

The team's offense has been led by Matt Palmquist, Sully Brenke and Alex Keilsa. Palmquist was batting 0.448 with 13 hits including four doubles. Brenke had a batting average of .441 with 15 hits, including one home run.

Keilsa also had a home run and a pair of triples to help his .417 average.

"Sully and Matt seem to come up with big hits all season long," Briggs said. "Alex is our power hitter and came through several times."

Cottage Grove closes out the regular season with a busy week.

The team took on White Bear Lake on Monday, July 9, after this edition of the Bulletin went to press. They're at home on Wednesday, July 11, for a 6 p.m. game against Ranview Gold at Park High School. That's followed up by an 8 p.m. game Thursday, July 12, at White Bear Lake. They close out the week against Mahtomedi-Gold at 6 p.m. Friday, July 13, at Bethel College.

The regular season ends at home on Tuesday, July 17, when they take on Woodbury Black at 6 p.m. at Park.

VFW playoffs begin Wednesday, July 18. The team is guaranteed at least one game during the three-day tournament.

Briggs said the team just needs to regain composure and play smart down the stretch.

"We just need to play some error-free games and get some confidence back," he said. "Our pitching should be OK."