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Austin drops second straight, this one against Blue Earth

By Scott A. Kolb

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

Leaving runners stranded on base throughout Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Earth Pirates sent the Austin Blue Sox to their second straight loss.

The Blue Sox left a total of 10 men on base in the amateur baseball game.

Failure to score with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning highlighted the frustration of the Blue Sox offense in the 5-4 loss at Marcusen Park.

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"We’ve hit a mid-season lull with the second consecutive loss," Blue Sox player/manager Josh Kunze said. "We got out hit and didn’t make the key plays in the field."

Power display

Despite their problems with scoring runs in the late innings, the Blue Sox held the lead a few different times on the night. After the visitors scored a run in the top of the first inning, the home team answered back with the long ball.

Brady Klingfus singled for the Blue Sox to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Kunze followed with a home run over the left-field fence.

Kunze’s first homer of the summer season cleared the fence just to the left of the light pole and the Blue Sox had a 2-1 lead. Pirates left-hander Cody Hyland would get the win, but Kunze had success against him with a pair of hits.

"I see lefties really well and he threw a pitch in," Kunze said of his round-tripper. "The ball tailed back over the plate and I got a good swing. I was looking for an inside fastball and it felt good to contribute to the team with a home run."

Blue Sox pitcher Joe Huffman now had the lead, but it didn’t last long. With one out in the top of the third, Huffman gave up a pair of hits. Then, he induced a groundout and appeared to work out of the threat.

The next batter for Blue Earth hit a chopper back to the mound, but Huffman couldn’t make the fielding play. The error allowed the Pirates to retake the lead as two runs scored.

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Early offense

Back came the Blue Sox in the bottom of the fourth. Kunze led off with a walk to start a two-run rally. After a pair of strikeouts, Derek Emanuel came up with a clutch hit. The single by Emanuel put two runners aboard, and Brian Voigt came in to run for the catcher.

Aaron Port had only one hit from the leadoff spot, but it was a big blow. Port drilled a shot to the gap in right-center for a triple. This plated two runs and the Blue Sox were back on top.

Huffman held on to the lead until the top of the seventh. Aaron Wendt collected his third hit for the Pirates in the rally. Wendt doubled with two outs.

The Pirates (25-5) used the speed of pinch-runner Mat Willmer to tie the game. A single followed and Willmer beat the throw to the plate.

Preventing further trouble, Huffman got a strikeout to keep the game tied. The Austin hurler had a total of 10 strikeouts on the night, and he started the top of the eighth in the same way.

Pirates prevail

Trent Sonnickson, the eighth hitter in the Pirates order, gave Huffman problems with two hits in the game. A single from Sonnickson and a subsequent stolen base put him in scoring position with one out in the eighth inning.

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Getting a key out, Huffman covered the bag at first base on a ground ball fielded by Klingfus. But a wild pitch sent Sonnickson racing home with the final run of the evening.

The Blue Sox couldn’t overcome the deficit. Klingfus singled to lead off the bottom of the eighth, then Kunze and Kroc drew walks.

Defense next did the trick for the Pirates with a grounder to third and a force play at the plate.

Voigt then hit a ball toward second base that looked like it might go through for a hit, but instead a leaping grab resulted in the second out. A groundout followed as the Blue Sox came away empty.

"They were conceding the run with the bases loaded, but we hit the ball right at their guys," Kunze said. "It seemed to go that way for us all night. We were just a glove away from making the defensive plays to get Joe out of those innings. They’re a good team and they got the runs in the late innings."

Blue Sox (14-3) go on the road Friday night to play the Albert Lea Colonels at Hayek Field.

BLUE EARTH 5, BLUE SOX 4

Blue Earth 102 000 110 — 5 12 1

Blue Sox 020 200 000 — 4 8 3

Blue Earth Pirates: Todd Rasmussen 2-for-5, SB, run; TJ Schmidtke 2-for-5, run; Aaron Wendt 3-for-4, 2B, run, RBI; Daniel Woodaff 2-for-5, 2 RBIs; Trent Sonnickson 2-for-4, 2 SB, run. WP: Cody Hyland 7 2/3 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 7 H, 6 BB, 1 HB, 8 K. SV: Lee Hodges 1 1/3 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K.

Austin Blue Sox: Aaron Port 1-for-5, 3B, 2 RBIs; Casey Toops 0-for-3, HBP, walk; Dan Swift 1-for-4, walk; Brady Klingfus 2-for-4, run; Josh Kunze 2-for-2, 2 walks, HR, 2 runs, 2 RBIs; Joey Kroc 0-for-2, 2 walks; Derek Emanuel 1-for-2; Brian Voigt 1-for-2, run. LP: Joe Huffman 9 IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 12 H, 0 BB, 1 HB, 10 K.

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