Crookston picks up much-needed sweep of East Grand Forks
Tuesday couldn't have been more needed for the Crookston baseball team.
The Pirates snapped out of their funk and snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating East Grand Forks, 13-3, in the first game of a doubleheader at Jim Karn Field. They later finished off a sweep of the Green Wave when Ashton Larson hit a two-RBI double to cap off a seventh-inning rally and 6-5 win in the second game.
"We told the players it was up to them to get fired up for the rest of the season," said Crookston coach Mitch Bakken. "Coaches aren't cheerleaders, and we shouldn't have to constantly remind players to stay focused and keep the energy up. The team came out and played upbeat all night."
Crookston (7-9, 4-7 Section 8AA) had lost eight straight games to the Green Wave dating back to May 24, 2016. But history didn't seem to have any bearing on what happened Tuesday afternoon.
The Pirates hadn't scored first in their last six games, but did so against East Grand Forks in the first inning of the first game of the day when Brooks Butt ripped a hard grounder into left field to score Gunnar Gunderson. Butt himself scored on a wild pitch only one batter later.
"Scoring first is always big," Bakken said. "It takes the pressure off the pitcher and defense a little bit, and it also helps have more relaxed bats when hitters aren't pressing or trying to do too much."
Carter Bruggeman and Austin Trinkle led off the fourth inning by drawing walks, and a dropped third strike allowed Bruggeman to score and George Widman to reach base. Gunderson then hit a sharp line drive into center to bring home Trinkle and Widman and extend the Crookston lead to 5-1.
Cade Coauette cruised through the first four innings but ran into trouble in the fifth, as the Green Wave (2-11, 2-8 Section 8AA) loaded the bases and scored two runs on Carson Belbas' bloop single to center over a drawn-in infield. But the Pirates had a response.
Solid contact was the theme of the fifth inning. Cade DeLeon took a hit-by-pitch followed by a Bruggeman single, and Trinkle drove a hard shot through the hole on the left side to bring both home. Gunderson, Jacob Miller and Butt then had three straight hard hits into the outfield, which drove home three more runs.
Rather than sitting back, Crookston looked to slam the door shut in the sixth inning. Needing three runs for a run-rule victory, the Pirates began the inning with a Bruggeman triple and ended it with a Butt line drive which scored Gunderson. Six Pirates came to the plate in the frame and all connected for base hits.
"We were swinging at quality pitches," Bakken said. "The game plan was to not worry about (EGF starter Tom Gust's) inconsistent curveball and focus on picking out a fastball that we could drive."
Gunderson went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs. Butt went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and a run scored. Trinkle was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and three runs. Bruggeman went 2-for-3 with three runs. Miller went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run.
Coauette picked up the win on the mound, allowing just two hits in five innings, while Butt closed the door with a scoreless sixth inning.
Crookston's 15 hits tied a season-high. The Pirates had 15 hits in an 18-6 win over Fosston on April 22. In addition, it was their third run-rule victory of the season.
As a team, Crookston drew five walks, three hit-by-pitches and stole seven bases, with Ethan Boll swiping two of them.
East Grand Forks put the blowout aside and surged to the lead in the second game. Five Green Wave batters in a row reached base during a five-run third inning, the big blow coming on a two-RBI double by Cam Kofstad.
Crookston answered with a bang in the fourth inning when Boll hit an inside-the-park home run to center, scoring Butt. However, the Pirates were held scoreless over the next two innings and headed into the final frame still trailing 5-2.
Coauette and Gunderson drew walks, and Miller ripped a single to the left side which brought Coauette home. Butt was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Boll drew a walk to make it a one-run game.
Larson stepped to the plate with one out and the bases loaded. Anything hit into the outfield, no matter where or how high, would have likely tied it. But the junior catcher wasn't about to settle, instead slamming the ball into deep left field to walk it off.
"After the first game, we told the kids to stay fired up," Bakken said. "EGF went down to the cages to take batting and we kind of sat around. So we were a little nervous for the second game hoping players weren't going to mail it in with one win, but they didn't."
Boll, who went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, led the charge for the Pirates after going hitless in the first game. As a team, Crookston stole seven bases, including three by Coauette.
Miller got the start and went four innings, while Butt pitched three scoreless innings of relief to earn the victory.
Between the first and second game, a ceremony was held to honor Crookston's six seniors: Bruggeman, Coauette, Miller and student managers Catherine Tiedemann, Chloe Bruley and Danielle Haake.
"I remember the seniors being seventh-graders," Bakken said. "They have played in the system for five years. They have outstanding baseball knowledge and know how to play the game correctly. If you play the game right, and fundamentally sound, you will have success at any level."
UP NEXT: The Pirates will take on Park Rapids (4-11, 1-3 Section 8AA) on Friday, May 21 in their last home game of the regular season. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.
CROOKSTON 13, EAST GRAND FORKS 3 (6)
East Grand Forks 0-1-0-0-2-0—3-3-1
- WP: Cade Coauette (5.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K)
- LP: Tom Gust (4.0 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 4 BB, 6 K)
CROOKSTON 6, EAST GRAND FORKS 5
East Grand Forks 0-0-0-5-0-0-0-0—5-11-1
- WP: Brooks Butt (3.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K)
- LP: Luke Blazek (0.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K)
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