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Raptors bats struggle

Sam Kastner is tagged out while trying to score during East Ridge’s 5-1 loss to Mahtomedi last Wednesday at East Ridge High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)1 / 3
Sam Cobbs hurls in a pitch during the Raptors 5-1 loss to Mahtomedi last Wednesday at East Ridge High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)2 / 3
Kyle Orehosky lifts a ball in the air last Wednesday during the Raptors 5-1 loss to Mahtomedi at East Ridge High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)3 / 3

It was supposed to be a game that allowed East Ridge’s legion club to shake off the cobwebs.

East Ridge fell 5-1 to Mahtomedi last Wednesday at East Ridge High School in its first competition following an eight-day layoff.

And while losses are never preferred, the game seemed to be more of a tune-up as the Raptors looked forward to the Gopher Classic, which was just days away.

East Ridge had seven different pitchers throw one inning, which went fairly well, but its offense only mustered three hits in the defeat.

“It was good to get back out there and we got all of our arms an inning each so we can have all of them available this weekend and a chance for them to get back on the mound after not throwing for a week or so,” Raptors legion coach Tyler Welch said. “It’s good to have a game, but obviously we didn’t show the way we wanted to.”

But instead of the Mahtomedi loss serving as a learning lesson and an opportunity to work out any kinks, it was a sign of things to come.

East Ridge carried its struggles into the Gopher Classic over the weekend.

“[It was] not very good,” Welch said.

The Raptors again collected just three hits in a weekend-opening 3-0 loss to Ash Port.

Carter Stoehr led the way with two of the team’s hits, but it was nowhere near the offensive production necessarily to support Raptors starter Drew Molin, who was solid on the mound, allowing four hits and two earned runs in four innings pitched.

All of Ash Port’s runs were scored in the second inning, which proved to be plenty enough offense to derail the Raptors.

But East Ridge was able to bounce back to top Sioux Falls West later in the day 4-3, despite delivering just four hits.

Sam Kastner was brilliant on the mound, allowing just one earned run and five hits through 4 and ⅔ innings while striking out two batters. Sioux Falls scored two runs in the top of the fifth inning to cut its deficit to one run, but Sam Cobbs came on in relief and shut the door for the final out to record the save.

The success wasn’t long-lived, though. The Raptors fell 3-1 to Apple Valley the next day, with their lone run coming on a Cobbs homer.

“We struggled offensively overall,” Welch said. “We’re just not making adjustments offensively and making adjustments based on the pitcher, so that was the big thing again.”

The Raptors bats came alive last Sunday.

East Ridge exploded for eight runs, but it wasn’t enough as it fell to Ham Lake 10-8 in 10 innings of action.

Welch said the Raptors committed another “five or six” errors to contribute to Ham Lake’s offensive efforts. He said it was the first time all weekend East Ridge struggled defensively.

“We can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” Welch said.

East Ridge has just one week of play remaining before the playoff seeding meeting is held Sunday.

Welch said his team has the talent necessary to make a push through the postseason, but his players have to start swinging the bats better and put forth a more polished defensive effort.

“If we can play clean games we have enough talent to make a deep run in the playoffs,” Welch said. “But we’ve got to play clean.”