Matt Morin and Kiefer Prudhomme earn wins on the mound.
There is no doubt the Crookston Reds baseball team is peaking at the right time as it swept the Thief River Falls Thieves over the weekend to advance in the Northwest Border League playoffs. Crookston took game one 7-4 Friday in Crookston and won 5-3 Sunday in Thief River Falls.
"We are definitely on our way up to the peak," said Reds manager Justin Johnson. "We are playing our best baseball of the year and there is no better time to do that. We didn't have a single error yesterday and one on Friday. Our defense has been absolutely stellar."
The Thieves won three of the four regular season meetings between the rivals.
Matt Morin pitched a complete game to open the series and Kiefer Prudhomme went eight innings for the win in game two.
"There is no question when Matt or Kiefer get on the mound we have a good chance to win the ball game," Johnson said. "We are on a four-game winning streak and have won five of our last six and it's all come from excellent pitching. Even in the one loss we had fantastic pitching."
The Reds will now face the Roseau Royals in the league championship Thursday in Roseau and Sunday in Crookston. Whatever happens in that series, though, the Reds will compete in the regional tournament in the first weekend in August in Ada. The top two teams from the Northwest Border, Norman Polk and Lake and Pine North will all compete in Ada.
In game one on Friday, the Reds scored two runs in each of the first two innings for a 4-3 lead. Crookston then added a run in the fourth, fifth and eighth innings for the 7-4 win.
Morin pitched all nine innings, his second complete game of the season, to improve to 2-1 on the season. His 3.52 earned run average in six starts this season is by far the lowest of his four-year Reds career. Morin allowed four earned runs on nine hits and five walks, while striking our four.
Nick Wheelhouse went 2-for-4 at the plate with a triple and two runs scored. Johnson was 1-for-3 with two runs scored. Paul Smith had a triple, scored two runs and drove in two, while Skip Toops had a double, a run scored and an RBI. Casey Morin had Crookston's other RBI in the game.
In game two on Sunday, Thief River Falls jumped out to a 3-0 lead after four innings but the Reds' bats got hot with three runs in the fifth and added one in each of the sixth and eighth innings.
Prudhomme allowed three earned runs on six hits and five walks in his eight innings for the win. Dillon Nelson pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
Casey Morin was 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs. Wheelhouse also had two hits, including a double. Smith had two RBIs, while Johnson drove in the other Reds' run.
"Casey Morin was very clutch on Sunday and Friday he hit well," Johnson said. "Nick Wheelhouse's bat has been really hot. We have had a little more clutch hitting in different spots in the lineup when we need it. Even on routine ground balls, guys are hustling down the line and we have beat out a couple of them and that has really helped spark an inning."
The Reds and Royals will square off Thursday in Roseau with the first pitch at 7:30 p.m. Sunday's first pitch is set for 2 p.m. in Crookston.
"I would like to thank the people who have donated to the Reds this season: Noah Insurance, KROX, Andy Oman State Farm Insurance, Northern Lumber, Biermaier Chiropractic and Kresl Properties," Johnson noted.
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