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Wolfpack looks to snap 4-game losing streak

The Cottage Grove VFW baseball team is eyeing the playoffs after an up-and-down run in recent weeks.

VFW Post 8752 reached .500 on the season with a three-game winning streak heading into the July Fourth holiday, but returned to the field last week and dropped four straight against some of the top teams in the league to fall to 6-10 on the year.

Last week's rough stretch started with a 4-2 loss against Ranview (Cretin-Derham Hall). Starting pitcher Jeb Melson threw a complete game, giving up four hits and striking out four. Ranview capitalized on the seven walks Melson allowed.

"Jeb pitched a great game, throwing over 100 pitches on a hot and humid day," Cottage Grove head coach John McGowan said. "Giving up so many free bases is the only thing that hurt him that day."

The squad took on Mendota Blue on Tuesday, July 9, falling to the St. Thomas Academy players 7-4 in eight innings. Jacob Lopez had eight strikeouts over eight innings pitched for Cottage Grove, but the team couldn't muster much offense and ended with six hits.

"The Mendota pitcher was always around the plate and he kept the ball down," McGowan said. "We just couldn't get anything going offensively."

Cottage Grove traveled north on Thursday, July 11, to take on Woodbury VFW. Cottage Grove fell 13-5, hit hard by a nine-run second inning for Woodbury.

Kaleb Fischer got the start, going 2 2/3 innings and giving up eight hits and three walks.

The Wolfpack had eight eights and were led at the plate by Ryan Banazewski's two RBIs and two runs scored. He went 2-for-3 on the day.

"Ryan continues to hit the ball well for us," McGowan said. "He's a left-handed hitter with power."

Anthony Buettner added two singles for Cottage Grove in the loss.

Cottage Grove took on Roseville in a makeup game on Saturday, July 13, falling 9-3. Melson started on the mound but gave up six runs over three innings. Reliever Luke Longmuir gave up three runs on three hits and a pair of walks in his first time throwing for the VFW team, but also struck out five batters.

"Luke did a nice job in relief," McGowan said. "He is a nice addition to our pitching staff."

Cottage Grove reached .500 on the season two weeks ago before the losing streak with wins against St. Paul Central's Twin Star team, North St. Paul and Highland Park.

The Wolfpack kicked off the three-game streak by pounding Twin Star 15-4 at Park High School behind solid pitching by Melson. He went four innings, giving up four runs on two hits and six walks. He had five strikeouts. Closer Brad Petersen allowed no runs on one hit and a strikeout.

Joe Knutson led Cottage Grove at the plate by going 5-for-6 with a base hit and four walks.

An above-.500 North St. Paul squad proved a tougher opponent on Monday, July 1, but the Wolfpack came out on top 6-4. Banazewski led Cottage Grove's offense by going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. Fischer also had two RBIs and a stand-up double.

A day later, the VFW squad's bats heated up in a 12-6 win over Highland Park at Park's Granny Smith Field. Lopez got the start and gave up five runs on nine hits and three walks. He struck out six. Petersen relieved Lopez and gave up a run.

Melson had a huge game at the plate, going 4-for-5 with three doubles and five RBIs. Lopez added a pair of RBIs and a home run as he went 2-for-3.

Buettner, Petersen, Fischer and Banazewski all had multiple hits against Highland Park.

Cottage Grove was scheduled to play Maplewood (Hill-Murray) on Monday afternoon, River Falls, Wis., Monday night and Mahtomedi Blue on Tuesday, all after the Bulletin went to press.

VFW league playoffs start Thursday, July 18, with single elimination in the first round and double elimination deeper into the playoffs.

"We are not playing Wolfpack baseball right now," McGowan said. "We have to get the kinks out and get back to making the routine plays, throwing strikes and hitting the ball. When we do this, we are a tough team beat."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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