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Parkers go 1-4 at Moose Country Tournament

Parkers catcher Ryan Banaszewski tags out a runner at home during St. Paul Park’s 8-2 loss to Mahtomedi last Wednesday at Park High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)1 / 2
Parkers pitcher Aaron Jenkins fires in a pitch during St. Paul Park’s 8-2 loss to Mahtomedi last Wednesday at Park High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick) 2 / 2

Playing eight games in six days can wear down a pitching staff quickly.

So thankfully for the St. Paul Park Parkers Post 98 legion club, Jacob Lopez can eat up plenty of innings on the mound..

Lopez threw 8 ⅔ innings on Sunday as the Parkers split a pair of games in the Moose Country Tournament in St. Paul.

Lopez threw four innings of shutout ball against Eagan on Sunday, allowing just three hits and striking out three while only throwing 46 pitches as the Parkers cruised to an 11-0 win in five innings.

“He actually threw his changeup more than he’s done before, and he was able to do that in first-pitch counts, so he was able to get ahead and really throw batters off,” Parkers coach Matt Doornink said. “He was able to be around 10 pitches an inning.”

Lopez provided plenty of support for himself on the offensive side, as well. he was 4-for-4 at the plate, knocking in two runs and stealing a base. Joining in on the offensive onslaught was Tavier Simmons, who went 1-for-2 with two walks and knocked in two runs, and Jeb Melson, who collected two hits at the dish.

The offensive outburst was a welcomed performance for the Parkers, who had been struggling to push runs across the plate.

Doornink said in previous outings he felt his players were too selective early in at-bats, causing themselves to fall behind in counts. St. Paul Park came into Sunday striking out in about one-fourth of their at-bats, a number Doornink said is way too high. But timidness wasn’t a problem at the plate against Eagan, as the Parkers only struck out twice.

“It was nice to get back into the winning column and offensively at the plate we were more aggressive outside of our strike zone going after pitches,” Doornink said.

Because of his efficient stint against Eagan, Lopez was given the go-ahead to start in the weekend cap against Stillwater later on Sunday. Once again, he was efficient, allowing just two earned runs on five hits and striking out two in another 4 ⅔ innings of work. And while the Parkers offense wasn’t generate enough on the offensive end and St. Paul Park swallowed a 5-1 loss, Lopez’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

“The hard part is, with the amount of games and days, we don’t have much of an available bullpen right now,” Doornink said. “It was good to see him eat up that many innings, and both games he gave us a chance to win because he didn’t walk anybody and put us in hard situations.”

Sunday’s loss was the second time in the weekend the Parkers lost to Stillwater. St. Paul Park fell to Stillwater 8-2 in the tournament opener on Friday, with four of Stillwater’s runs coming off of Parkers’ errors.

“They’re a pretty solid team, but definitely beatable.” Doornink said. “[The errors were] a big part of it.”

JT Bickel provided some offensive juice for the Parkers, as he cracked a double in the fourth inning. Bickel scored St. Paul Park’s second run of the game later in the inning on a sacrifice fly from Ryan Banaszewski, but that was all the offense the Parkers could muster.

The Parkers dropped a pair of games on Saturday, falling to Duluth Wakefield 12-1 before coming up on the short-end of an 8-3 decision against West. St. Paul.

While the Parkers hoped for better results from the weekend tournament, Doornink said it was nice to get his players plenty of at-bats and innings pitched.

“At the end of it, we came out better than we were going into it,” he said.