Crusader baseball finds first win of 2014

The Mayer Lutheran baseball team is better than its record of 1-13 says, according to LHS head coach Dave Lane.

Wrapping the regular season last week by picking up the team’s first win of the 2014 season, the Crusaders battled earlier this week in the first round of the Section 4A tournament, a single elimination round.

Seeded No. 10, Mayer Lutheran took on No. 7 Maranatha Christian yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon. The winner advances into the double elimination portion of the bracket and will play the winner of No. 2 New Life Academy/No. 15 Minnesota Transitions Charter Friday afternoon at the higher seed.

While a record of 1-13 may discourage some teams, Lane has been motivating his team with other Cinderella stories in past Crusader squads.

“I’m optimistic,” Lane said. “We’ve got into playoffs with really bad records before.”

Just last season, Mayer Lutheran had only three wins to its name headed into the section tournament, where the Crusaders won three straight games and finished third in the section. A few years prior to that, again with just three wins in the regular season, the Crusader team won five straight in the playoffs to qualify for the state tournament, so really, anything is possible for this Mayer Lutheran team.

“We’re optimistic that we can hopefully make a little run,” Lane said.

Mayer Lutheran, a Class A team, struggled to compete against the tougher Class AA teams of the Minnesota River Conference this season, finishing last with a record of 1-12. Of the five MRC games LHS played last week, the Crusaders lost four of them, but picked up their first win of 2014.

The Crusaders kicked off the week with a 3-2 victory at LeSueur-Henderson on May 13. Mayer Lutheran scored all three of its runs in the fifth inning on two hits, a walk, a sacrifice, a

fielder’s choice, and a wild ball.

Seniors Mitch Baumann and Joel Burfeind carried the team offensively with two hits a piece. Fellow senior Cole Buttenhoff took to the mound. He picked up the win by throwing seven innings and allowing just one earned run on two hits. He struck out nine and walked three Giant batters.

The Crusaders took a step back against a talented Norwood Young America team on Thursday, losing 11-1 in six innings.

The Raiders posted five runs in the second inning, and capitalized on Mayer Lutheran’s six defensive errors throughout the game.

“That was kind of the killer,” Lane said of the second inning.

Sophomore Jack Chmielewski threw the first four innings for LHS and took the loss, giving up five hits. Senior Chase Anderson closed for the Crusaders, allowing one earned run on three hits.

“Jack threw fairly well,” Lane said. “We just played no defense behind him.”

Mayer Lutheran struggled at the plate, with Baumann and Chmielewski collected the team’s two hits.

“We’re a little suspect hitting some days,” Lane said.

LHS hosted Sibley East Friday night, losing 7-2. The Wolverines posted two runs in the top of the first inning before an RBI double from Burfeind brought the game to 2-1, where it would stay until the sixth inning.

“That was when we had a crucial error to start the inning and things kind of snowballed from there,” Lane said.

The snowball led to four unearned Sibley East runs. The Crusaders pushed one across the plate in the seventh, but Sibley East would take the game 7-2.

Sophomore Zach Thole threw five and two-thirds innings for the Crusaders. While throwing strikes, Lane said it was the LHS defense behind him that wasn’t great.

“We had a couple key errors behind him that ended up costing us,” Lane said.

Sophomore Karrington Boelke closed for LHS, throwing the final 1.3 innings.

Sophomore Jack Buttenhoff had the Crusaders’ best appearance at the plate, going 2-3, while Baumann also collected two hits, going 2-4.

In a Saturday doubleheader against Watertown-Mayer, the Crusaders lost the first game 4-0. The Royals scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning on two costly LHS errors.

“We gave them four runs in the bottom of the first,” Lane said. “And that was it. They didn’t score any more.”

Burfeind threw six solid innings for the Crusaders, allowing four hits, four walks, and two strikeouts.

“He just kept throwing strikes,” Lane said.

He added that the Crusaders need to stay out of those big innings that give their opponents multiple run.

“As is true in most baseball and softball games, if you could pick and throw out one inning, you could change the outcome,” Lane said.

Saturday’s second game was “pretty much a disaster,” Lane said.

The Royals put down LHS 12-2 in five innings and Watertown-Mayer posted two runs in the second, six in the fourth, and four in the bottom of the fifth to wrap the game.

The Crusaders were able to get two runs in the top of the fifth.

“That got us a little something on the board, we strung a couple of hits together,” Lane said.

Hits for the game came from Baumann, Boelke, Burfeind, and freshman Nic Voelker.

Baumann, Voelker, and Buttenhoff split time on the mound and none of the three had exceptionally solid performances.

“Not exactly our best outing,” Lane said.

Lane said it’s not that the Crusaders aren’t able to reach the bases that is preventing them from winning, and staying in, some games. He said the Crusaders have been able to put runners not only on base, but in scoring position, but what stops them is the lack of the big hit needed to bring them home.

“We’re just unable to come up with the big hit,” he said. “That’s probably been our biggest nemesis.”

Contact Melissa Marohl at melissa.marohl@ecm-inc.com

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