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Paynesville Press - April 26, 2006

Bulldogs stay unbeaten with two wins

By Michael Jacobson

The Bulldogs baseball got only three hits, including two infield singles by junior Cory Nietfeld, but they beat Albany 5-2 on Thursday to run their season-opening winning streak to six games, behind a complete-game pitching performance by senior James Paul.

Baseball Derek Stanger The Dogs - rated #1 in Class AA - benefitted from nine walks and five errors by the Huskies - rated #7 in the preseason rankings. The Dogs won two of three games with Albany last year, including a 12-6 victory over the Huskies in the state quarterfinals in June.

Senior third baseman Derek Stanger fields a backhander during the Dogs' 5-2 victory over Albany on Thursday.

The Dogs jumped ahead of the Huskies last week, scoring two runs in the first inning and another two runs in the second inning. Albany's starting pitcher threw nine straight balls to start the game and walked the bases full with one out in the first inning. Nietfeld then hit a hot shot on the ground to third, which bounced off the fielder for a two-run single, giving the Dogs a 2-0 lead.

In the second, after two straight walks to start the inning again, senior Trent Hansen bounced a single through the hole into left to bring home one run. A second run scored on a sacrifice fly by senior John Hemingson, who hit the ball to the warning track in left.

Hemingson's ball was one of three hard-hit drives to left by the Dogs, all right at the Huskies' leftfielder. Senior Ryan Hess hit a long drive to end the first inning that the Albany fielder reached overhead to grab. Paul also hit a drive to left that was caught in the fourth inning.

The Dogs stranded nine base-runners in six at bats against the Huskies. "We didn't get the big hit yesterday," said coach Brad Skoglund. "We could have blown them out of the water."

Only getting three hits was puzzling, said Skoglund, because the Dogs have been hitting the ball hard in practice. Last week, he added, that did not carry over to games, with the Dogs' best contacts seemingly being at-'em balls.

The four runs the Dogs did score in the first two innings proved to be enough for Paul, whom Skoglund praised for his control against the Huskies. He allowed eight hits but walked only one, during an inning where the Bulldog fans groused about the umpire squeezing the strike zone.

Albany did get two runs on back-to-back two out singles in the third inning, but Paul escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning, coaxing a shallow fly to center by jamming Albany's clean-up hitter with a full-count fastball.

Hansen also made a nice running catch in centerfield to end the sixth inning, with a runner on base for the Huskies.

Paul, who had struggled with his control in his first couple of starts but is throwing the ball harder this spring due to off-season weight training, concentrated on hitting spots, said Skoglund, who added that it was good to see him retain his usual good control.

Paul helped his cause in the top of the first, picking off a runner with the help of junior firstbaseman Ben Moser. That turned a one-out, one-on rally into a two-out, bases-empty situation, keeping the momentum on the Dogs' side. Assistant coach Dick Realdsen, who works with the Dogs' pitching staff, had just spent time in practice working on pick-off moves, said Skoglund, so it was nice to see that work in a game.

After escaping jams in the fifth and sixth innings, the Dogs added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. An error, a hit batter, and an intentional walk to Hemingson loaded the bases for Nietfeld, who beat out an infield chopper for his second RBI single of the game.

With the victory, the Dogs moved to 6-0 for the season and 4-0 in the West Central Conference North.

This week, the Dogs hosted New London-Spicer on Tuesday; they were scheduled to host Sauk Centre on Monday, but the game was rained out. On Thursday, the Dogs will travel to Melrose, whose Dutchmen are also undefeated so far in the conference, and on Saturday the Dogs will play at the Big Lake Tourney.

Next week, the Dogs will host Sauk Centre on Monday, May 1, and LPGE on Tuesday, May 2.

Albany-- 002 000 0 - 28 5
Paynesville-- 220 001 x - 5 3 2

Albany - Batting: Bryce Rushmeyer 3-4 RBI; Aaron Schiffler 2-3 RBI; Adam Doll 1-1; Josh Hiltner 1-2 R; Kurt Schlangen 1-4 R; Pitching: (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) Kevin Spohn (L) (4-2-4-3-8-2); Schlangen (2-1-1-0-1-3).

Paynesville - Batting: Cory Nietfeld 2-3 RBI-3; Trent Hansen 1-1 R RBI BB-2; John Hemingson 0-1 RBI BB-2; Alex Naujokas 0-2 BB-2 R-3; Pitching: (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) James Paul (W) (7-8-2-0-1-4).

Paynesville 7, Minnewaska 1
For the second time this season, the Dogs rallied from behind to win a conference road game, backing senior John Hemingson's pitching with a five-run third-inning rally to beat Minnewaska 7-1 last week.

Hemingson allowed the first Laker batter of the game to single and come around and score but shut out the Lakers for the remaining six innings, earning his third pitching victory of the spring. He struck out 12, including the last four batters of the game on Tuesday, April 18.

The Dogs backed Hemingson with errorless defense - compared with six errors by Minnewaska - including a couple of defensive gems: seniors Derek Stanger, Ryan Hess, and Mark Andrie turned a 5-4-3 double play to end the third inning and junior rightfielder Cory Nietfeld retrieved a single in the sixth inning and threw out the batter trying to stretch the hit into a double with a nice throw in the sixth inning.

Trailing 1-0, the Dogs batted around in the third inning, using three hits and four Lakers errors to score five runs. The biggest hit was Hemingson's two-run double. Junior Alex Naujokas also delivered an RBI single in the rally.

The Dogs added a run in the fifth inning thanks to two more Laker errors and another run in the sixth inning on singles by Hess and senior Trent Hansen.

"The thing about Minnewaska and LPGE," said coach Brad Skoglund, "was we battled back on the road. That's nice to see."

Paynesville-- 005 011 0 - 78 0
Minnewaska-- 100 000 0 - 1 6 6

Paynesville - Batting: John Hemingson 2-3 2B RBI-2 R; Alex Naujokas 2-4 R RBI SB; Trent Hansen 2-4 R RBI; Cory Nietfeld 1-3 R SB-2; Ryan Hess 1-3 R; Pitching: (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) Hemingson (W) (7-6-1-1-2-12).

Minnewaska - Batting: Aaron Kessler 2-4 R; Tyler Davis 2-2; Pitching: (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) Jon Hoffman (L) (5-6-6-0-0-5).

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