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Parkers open playoffs Wednesday

Tavier Simmons strolls into third base last Thursday in a 5-4 loss to Woodbury Blue. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)1 / 4
Brad Peterson preps to fire to first last Thursday in a 5-4 loss to Woodbury Blue. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)2 / 4
Ryan Banaszewski takes a swing last Thursday in a 5-4 loss to Woodbury Blue. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)3 / 4
Kaleb Fischer tosses a pitch last Thursday in a 5-4 loss to Woodbury Blue. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)4 / 4

After dropping 24 of their first 30 games, the Parkers went on a roll unmatched in the last few seasons.

St. Paul Park topped Hastings twice last Wednesday, moving its winning streak to five games, the longest streak for the legion club since 2009.

“It was definitely nice to see,” Parkers coach Matt Doornink said. “All five of those wins were teams that we should definitely beat on a daily basis if we’re going to be a good team.”

The streak looked like it would be snapped at three, as Hastings scored seven runs in the second on just four hits to hop out to a 7-0 lead.

But Parkers pitcher Jake Lopez shut Hastings down from that point forward. He faced just two batters more than the minimum over the final five innings, holding Hastings scoreless over the final 15 outs.

The St. Paul Park bats rewarded Lopez’s efforts with a win as the Parkers scored five runs in the fifth and three in the sixth to capture a 8-7 victory.

The Parkers fifth inning featured five hits, with JT Bickel capping the inning off with a two-RBI base knock.

Brad Peterson and Aaron Gores kicked off the sixth inning with two singles. Jeb Melson’s two-RBI rip helped the Parkers retake the lead for good.

Doornink said the comeback was something he wouldn’t have seen earlier in the summer from his club.

“It was good to see, mainly because we’ve had a tendency to not battle pitchers that are not that good,” Doornink said. “It was nice to finally, after you see a guy once, start to hit a guy that’s not better than you.”

The Parkers didn’t wait quite as long to come back in the second game. Lopez singled in Peterson to tie the game at one apiece.

Hastings responded with two more runs in the second, but the Parkers responded again. St. Paul Park scored two runs in the third as Simmons hit a RBI double before he was singled home by Bickel.

The Parkers blew the game open with six runs in the bottom of the fifth on the strength of three hits and eventually closed out the game with a 9-6 victory.

Gores picked up the win on the mound as he tossed five innings and allowed just two earned runs on three hits as he worked around five walks.

St. Paul Park nearly extended its winning streak to six games last Thursday against Woodbury Blue. The Parkers scored four runs in a third inning capped by a two-rbi single by Peterson.

St. Paul Park held a 4-2 lead heading into the fifth-and-final inning, but Woodbury Blue rallied with three runs, all with two outs, to steal a 5-4 victory.

The Parkers fell 4-2 to Oakdale last Friday. St. Paul Park collected six hits, but was struck out 10 times by Oakdale’s starting pitcher.

“He well overpowered us,” Doornink said.

St. Paul Park jumped all over Northfield early last Saturday. The Parkers held a 6-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third.

But the early lead couldn’t hold up, as the Parkers fell 13-6 in a nine-inning title.

The offensive performance was highlighted by Tavier Simmons. Simmons belted a two-run double to help build the early advantage.

But as hot as the offense was early, it was just as cold to finish the game. The Parkers were retired in order in each of the last five innings, which proved detrimental as Northfield started to string together hits and post runs in bunches.

“That’s back to rolling over and hiding under a rock once the lead is gone,” Doornink said. “We’ve got to realize that when we’re behind, we’re not losing.”

The Parkers enter the legion playoffs as the No. 9 seed in the district. They’ll take on No. 8 Rosemount in Burnsville on Wednesday night in a defacto play-in game to the eight-team double elimination bracket.

St. Paul Park carries a much-improved offense into the playoffs. JT Bickel has raised his average 100 points in the last 10 days.

“He’s been the spark,” Doornink said.

Doornink said Bickel, Banaszewski and Peterson are all guys who struggled in the first two-thirds of the season, but have since found their offense.

“I knew they would,” Doornink said, “because all three have great swings.”

That newfound offense, a deep pitching staff and the experience that’s come from a 38-game summer that’s Doornink said has seen the team grow in all areas of the game should give the Parkers a chance to make some noise in the section.

Those chances increase when looking at a section that only features four teams with winning records. One of those teams, Woodbury Blue, beat the Parkers twice this year by a total of two runs.

Doornink said the key is getting someone from the bottom half of the order to step up. If that occurs, “anything can happen.”

“We’re close,” he said.