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Parkers discover winning ways

Mikkel McGowan makes the throw to first for an out during a Parkers game versus Woodbury Area last Sunday at Park HIgh School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)1 / 6
Sam Horner slides in safely during a Woodbury Area game against St. Paul Park last Sunday at Park High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick) 2 / 6
Ryan Banaszewski tags out a River Falls runner during the Parkers loss to River Falls last Thursday. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)3 / 6
Jerrick Drude-Smith tosses a pitch during the Parkers loss to River Falls last Thursday. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)4 / 6
Matt Palkovich throws a pitch during a Woodbury Area loss to St. Paul Park last Sunday at Park High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)5 / 6
Jake Lopez makes a diving effort for a ground ball during the Parkers loss to River Falls last Thursday. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)6 / 6

It’s often said you have to hit rock bottom before you can start to pick yourself back up.

That might have been the case for the Post 98 St. Paul Parkers legion squad last week.

St. Paul Park kicked off last week by losing a pair of games to Forest Lake, both of which via the 10-run rule in five innings.

How bad was it? Parkers coach Matt Doornink compared the doubleheader to the sinking of the Titanic.

It didn’t look like it was going to turn around anytime soon for Post 98, as it fell to Inver Grove on Wednesday, River Falls on Thursday and West St. Paul on Friday. The Parkers proceeded to drop the first game of a doubleheader to Red Wing on Saturday, as well.

But an epiphany may have been struck prior the second game of that double dip, because the Parkers bounced back with a 5-4 victory that snapped an eight-game losing streak.

And after a doubleheader sweep over Woodbury Area last Sunday, the Parkers are currently riding a three-game winning streak.

“We’re just having more fun and going out there more relaxed,” Tavier Simmons said. “Not getting too low or too high.”

The Parkers first win Sunday, a 7-6 decision, featured a 10-hit outburst from an offense that had struggled to put the bat on the ball for much of the season. The double-digit figure in the hit column caused Doornink to do a doubletake.

Simmons said the team’s success is leading to the better at-bats and swings as the squad’s belief grows.

“It’s just confidence,” he said. “With these wins we’re going up there feeling good and thinking you’re going to get a hit.”

Simmons threw five innings in a starting role to earn the win on the mound. While he’s not normally one to step into the rotation, his services were required for a team that was playing its eighth and ninth games in six days Sunday.

Doornink said Simmons performance on the mound was “awesome.” Simmons said he was just going out there and throwing. He said it was fun to get out on the mound to mix it up, though he wasn’t exactly mixing it up with his pitch selections.

“I actually only threw like four curveballs,” he said. “I was locating. ... Working today, I found a consistent pitching motion and arm slot and I was feeling good.”

Kaleb Fischer led the way offensively with three hits.

Ryan Banaszewski blew the second game open for St. Paul Park with a bases-clearing RBI double as part of a six-run second inning as the Parkers came up with an 8-7 victory..

St. Paul Park was able to touch up Woodbury’s Sam Horner, who struggled to find the strike zone early on.

That forced Woodbury Area coach Brian Palkovich to toss Matt Palkovich onto the mound with the bases loaded. Matt Palkovich delivered, only allowing the Parkers one more run through the rest of the contest.

“There were a couple of errors early and then Sam just lost the location, so I put Matt in and after that he shut them down,” Brian Palkovich said. “That really helps a lot. It’s really impressive for him to be able to stick through the rest of the game and really after that I didn’t worry about them getting too many runs.”

Crucial errors played a big part in Woodbury coming up on the short-end in both one run decisions.

“You take away even half of those errors and we win both games,” Brian Palkovich said.

For the Parkers, the free bases were a welcome reward for putting the ball in play -- something they’d struggled with for a good chunk of the season. Doornink said the team’s strikeout rate has decreased considerably during the team’s three-game winning streak.

“I think it was just a matter of time for kids who haven’t played at this level to catch up to pitching they haven’t seen before,” he said. “So our strikeout rate’s been less and we’ll get an accidental hit, and accidently bloop and generate some errors. That’s the biggest difference so we have some more baserunners where now we can bunt, now we can steal.”

With just one week to play before the playoff seeding meeting, Simmons said the Parkers are finding their rhythm at the right time of summer.

“We want to get some wins going and get some momentum going into the playoffs and maybe do something,” he said. “We’re not going to have that high of a seed, but maybe we can surprise teams and see how far we go.”

Woodbury Area splits with West St. Paul

Woodbury Area notched 10 hits in one of two battles with West St. Paul last Wednesday.

Eight of those belonged to the tandem of Horner and Palkovich.

That duo combined to go 9-for-10 at the dish with a walk, four runs scored and five RBI as Woodbury Area cruised to a 12-6 win.

That type of production at the top of the order has become a staple for Woodbury Area. It was strong again last Sunday, but the bottom of the order failed to back up the first few batters, a recent trend Brian Palkovich has noticed. Woodbury’s bottom four batters have combined to go 3-for-48 over the past four games.

“The first four guys got a lot of hits and the runs came in and then the bottom of the order struggled,” he said. “The last two or three games you’ve been able to count on the first four or five hitters, and after that you take your chances.”

Woodbury Area dropped the second game with West St. Paul 13-3.

Thomas Becken led Woodbury’s bats as he accrued two hits.

Woodbury Area once again hurt itself on the defensive side, as it committed five errors.

Brian Palkovich said he knows his squad will be fine moving forward if it’s able to cut down on the defensive miscues.

“We’ve just got to stop making the mistakes and we should be solid,” he said.