‘Trying to get the swings back’

Photo by Jake McNeill Photo by Jake McNeill: Minneota second baseman Josh Schuelke flips a ball to first baseman Danny Hennen after fielding a grounder in an amateur baseball game against Castlewood (S.D.) on Wednesday night. The Ravens defeated the Minneota Mudhens 5-3.

MINNEOTA — The Minneota Mudhens’ ninth-inning rally against the Castlewood Ravens fell short on Wednesday night as the visitors spoiled Minneota’s home opener by a final score of 5-3.

“I think we’re just kind of getting back on the field and trying to get the swings back, getting the defensive mistakes out of the way and just throwing strikes to get the pitchers going,” Minneota manager Tyson Sonnenburg said. “These non-league games are just good for us to get back out there, kind of get everybody back in the field and then prepare us for the league schedule coming up Sunday.”

The Mudhens trailed 5-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth when Tyson Sonnenburg and Isaac Pohlen hit back-to-back singles. With the two runners on the corners, Castlewood attempted to throw out Pohlen as he tried to steal second base but an errant throw allowed Sonnenburg to score and Pohlen to advance to third.

From there, the tying run came to the plate with no outs. Yet, a slow roller up the middle allowed Castlewood to hold Pohlen at third before getting the out at first and a fly out to the mound and a strikeout ended the game.

The Ravens had pushed a pair of runs across the plate in the top of the frame to get what proved to be some necessary breathing room. With one out, Gus Stieger walked and Nate Phinney was hit by a pitch. After a strikeout put two down, Blayne Schleisman drilled a single into the outfield to push two runs across the plate to give the Ravens a three-run cushion.

Minneota scored each of the game’s first two runs in the first two innings. Adam Devlaeminck led off the bottom of the first by reaching on an error, advancing on a Peyton Gillund single and an Alex Pohlen groundout, and scoring on an Austin Buysse groundout.

One inning later, AJ Myhre walked, advanced on an Isaac Butterbaugh single and Ben Skorczewski fielder’s choice, and scored on a Devlaeminck sacrifice fly to make the score 2-0 in favor of the Mudhens.

From there, however, Minneota’s offense went dormant with just two baserunners over the next six innings.

“Maybe just a little overly aggressive, seeing a few more pitches,” Sonnenburg said of the team’s mid-game struggles on the offensive side. “We tend to kind of swing at the first pitch a lot, so we’re definitely aggressive hitting team. Sometimes just kind of knowing the spot and the situation and when to take a pitch or two [is important], but it’s tough. It’s early, so we just want guys to go out there and swing the bat. It’s something we like, we’re not going to be too picky right now but maybe later in the season.”

The Ravens took advantage of the lack of Minneota offensive production with some runs of their own. Castlewood tied the game in the top of the fifth when Steiger hit a double and Nate Phinney hit a home run just over the 290-feet sign on the right field wall. 

AJ Myhre relieved Gillund on the mound to start the sixth inning but the Ravens kept coming. With one out in the top of the sixth. Adam Ching hit a leadoff single and Kyler Tvedt and Hunter Smith walked consecutively to load the bases. Myhre was able to get a strikeout to put one down but Steiger drew a walk to force in the go-ahead run before the Mudhens got out of the inning with a fly out to center field.

Gillund tossed the first five innings of the game for Minneota. While he had the one hiccup in the fifth inning, he was otherwise effective on the day. He held the Ravens scoreless for the first four frames of his five-inning outing and held Castlewood to two runs on four hits and no walks. He also struck out three batters.

Ryan Krog relieved Myhre after the sixth inning and pitched the final three frames for Minneota. He held Castlewood without a run for the first two of those frames and finished his relief appearance with two walks, one hit and three strikeouts while allowing two earned runs.

The game was Minneota’s first home game of the year after they dropped their season opener on the road against Pipestone by a final score of 6-1 on May 4. The Mudhens were originally slated to host the Milroy Irish on May 8 but stormy weather cancelled the game and postponed the Mudhens’ season debut at K.P. Kompelien Field.

“It’s awesome. It’s a pretty special place to play so we love to be here,” Sonnenburg said. “It’s just a cool atmosphere. We get a great crowd every season that comes out to support so we love the home games here at the Komp, especially home night games are the best. It’s just fun to get back out with the guys.”

Kellan Benck pitched the first four innings for Castlewood, allowing one earned run and one unearned on four hits and a walk. He didn’t strike out a batter. In relief, Tvedt closed out the final five innings to earn the win. He held Minneota to one run on two hits and a walk while striking out three batters.

Minneota falls to 0-2 with the loss and will return to action when it heads to Wheaton to do battle with the Dumont Saints for its Land O’ Ducks league debut on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.


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