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St. Paul Park Legion baseball: Parkers top .500 after rocky start

St. Paul Park Legion baseball team's Jordan Jeske pitches in a recent game against Oakdale.

The St. Paul Park Parkers Legion baseball team is looking to close out its regular season on a positive note after climbing above .500 for the first time since the beginning of the season.

St. Paul Park wraps up its schedule over the next two weeks, following a recent 4-2 stretch that bumped its league record to 5-3 and its overall record to 14-13. That came after a turbulent June for the Parkers, when they opened the season 2-0 but then dropped five consecutive games and six of the next seven while struggling with fielding errors and inconsistent pitching.

The team has managed to improve even as it has not played a game on its usual home field all season because of field improvements at Park High School, sending St. Paul Park to other fields for each of its 40 games.

Looking back to the start of the season, Parkers head coach Matt Doornink said the team has hit some rough patches while playing in a very competitive league. St. Paul Park's hitting has improved throughout the lineup, pitching overall has been good but they can do better, he said.

"We are going to be a very good team," Doornink said.

Nine of the 11 players on the roster had pitched in games this season, all showing that they can be effective, Doornink said. Go-to starters include righthander Drew Flack and lefties Jordan Jeske, Kyle Fritz and Spencer Diedrich.

St. Paul Park opened the season in early June with two victories as Fritz and Flack earned wins against New Prague and Faribault, respectively.

St. Paul Park's first tournament of the season got off to a disappointing start when they opened play at the Eagan Invitational in mid-June with a 10-0 loss to Edina. All of Edina's runs came in the first inning.

But St. Paul Park shook it off and returned a day later to post their most lopsided win to date with a 19-1 trouncing of the St. James A's of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Diedrich earned the big win.

"They were just not on our level," Doornink said of the A's.

The Parkers earned a consolation championship victory at the Moose Country Tournament June 22-24, dropping their first two before going 3-2 with a 7-6 win over Stillwater and a 16-9 victory over Rosemount before edging Rosetown 5-4 to close the tournament.

"It was a long weekend of hot baseball," Doornink said. "Kids put in a ton of effort and it paid off, and it was a pretty legit to end on three victories."

Diedrich had another strong pitching performance in St. Paul Park's 3-0 win over Hudson in late June. He threw seven innings and had eight strikeouts.

"Spencer was lights out," Doornink said. "He's been pitching well the entire summer. His command has improved and each start it looks like he has been gaining velocity."

St. Paul Park nudged its league record to 3-3 with a 5-2 win over Woodbury on July 1.

Last weekend the Parkers traveled to Rochester for the Firecracker Tournament. They opened with a 10-5 win over the Rochester Redhawks Friday, July 6. They dropped the first game of a Saturday doubleheader 2-1 to Mitchell, S.D., but turned around and topped a Lincoln, Neb., team 8-7, which put St. Paul Park at 5-3 in its league and 14-13 overall on the season.

St. Paul Park took on Mahtomedi on Monday, July 9, after this edition of the Bulletin went to press.

The regular season's final stretch includes nine games in 10 games, including two double-headers. One of the doublheaders is against East Ridge on Thursday, July 19.

The Legion's District 3 tournament is July 25-28. That is followed by the state tournament Aug. 2-5 in Chaska.

St. Paul Park is trying to build on a solid 2011 season, when the team finished tied for second with a 10-6 record in League F play.

Parkers remaining schedule

Friday, July 13 - Stillwater, 4 p.m., Stillwater Area High School

Friday, July 13 - Stillwater, 6 p.m., Stillwater Area High School

Saturday, July 14 - West St. Paul, 2 p.m., Henry Sibley High School

Monday, July 16 - Woodbury, 6 p.m., Woodbury High School

Wednesday, July 18 - West St. Paul, 6 p.m., Henry Sibley High School

Thursday, July 19 - East Ridge, 4 p.m., East Ridge High School

Thursday, July 19 - East Ridge, 6 p.m., East Ridge High School

Saturday, July 21 - Shakopee, 2 p.m., Joe Schepler Stadium

Sunday, July 22 - Burnsville, noon, Woodridge Park