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Banaszewski bolsters Parkers pitching staff

Ryan Banaszewski hasn’t pitched much in the last few years.

But he’s getting ample opportunities to contribute on the mound this summer for the St. Paul Parkers Post 98 American Legion team -- and he’s taking advantage of them.

Banaszewski came on in relief of Aaron Jenkins last Tuesday against Oakdale and threw two innings of shutout ball as the Parkers suffered a 4-1 defeat.

Parkers coach Matt Doornink said Banaszewski hasn’t thrown in about five years, but he’s made four appearances on the mound for Post 98 already this summer, and he’s been fairly effective.

“He’s been solid,” Doornink said. “He throws low 80s, so he’s pretty good.”

Doornink said when some younger players are good shortstops or catchers, they will only play at those positions and won’t get used much on the mound.

“That’s how it goes sometimes,” he said. “[Even if] they have a good arm.”

Banaszewski has been getting those opportunities to throw for the Parkers this summer, as Post 98 has needed the quality innings.

Jenkins was solid in the start against Oakdale. He allowed seven hits, but only two of the four runs he allowed were earned.

Still, the bats weren’t there to support the Parkers pitching staff. Post 98’s offense struck out 12 times. The Parkers lone run came when JT Bickel one of his two doubles in the game to knock in Matt Johnson, who had also doubled earlier in the inning.

Bickel accounted for two of St. Paul Park’s three hits.

Kaleb Fischer was able to keep the Parkers within reach of Mahtomedi last Wednesday, but once again Post 98 fell short, this time by a 4-3 tally.

Fischer gave up just three hits and struck out four in four innings against a potent Mahtomedi offense.

“He did good,” Doornink said. “He was keeping their hitters off balance by using his changeup and curveball … so that’s good to see.”

Offensively the Parkers collected seven hits and only struck out five times. Jenkins and Jarrett Mansergh both contributed RBI singles during a three-run third inning, but that was the only frame in which the Parkers could plate any runs.

Still, the performance was much improved from a week earlier, when Post 98 fell 8-2 to the same Mahtomedi squad.

But the Parkers were unable to carry any momentum into a tournament in River Falls over the weekend. Post 98 lost two games by a combined total of 18-0.

The Parkers fell 8-0 to Academy Stars on Saturday morning. The offense couldn’t get much going, only totaling two hits.

Meanwhile, St. Paul Park’s staff had trouble finding the strike zone. Academy Stars eight runs came on the strength of just one hit. The Parkers committed three errors and walked 14 batters in the loss, something Doornink said he’s never seen before.

Later in the day, the Parkers fell 10-0 at the hands of Westphal Armstrong.

Post 98’s bats accrued three hits, with Banaszewski, Tyson Woodrich and Jeb Melson all going 1-for-2 at the dish.

St. Paul Park struggled in the field defensively. Westphal Armstrong scored four runs in the fifth inning off of three Parkers errors and two in the second off of an error by Post 98.

“Defensively, we did not help ourselves at all,” Doornink said. “We were really not playing smart baseball.”

Brad Peterson started for the Parkers and pitched four innings before Banaszewski came in and recorded the final six outs in relief.

Doornink said he’ll “definitely” continue to use Banaszewski on the mound, particularly as some of the Parkers primary pitchers struggle to find the zone and commit too many walks.

“They go out there and walk four guys in one inning and put us in a hole,” Doornink said. “We can’t have that.”

Doornink did add that, other than three or four bad outings, for the most part the pitching has been “solid.”

St. Paul Park’s final game on Sunday was cancelled because the field was too wet from excessive rainfall.

Doornink said one of the positives of the weekend was the venue, as the tournament was held at the newly constructed First National Bank of River Falls Field, which just opened in June.

“It’s a great park,” he said. “The kids were excited to play there. It’s brand new. … It’s got to be a top-10 park in the Twin Cities area now.”