HOWARD LAKE – In order to compete in the North Star League, you have to be able to win close games. The Howard Lake Orphans have taken that to a new level as they won their third-straight NSL contest with a 3-2 win over the Maple Plain Diamond Devils Wednesday night at Memorial Park.
Not only was it the third-straight win for the Orphans, it was the third-straight win that came by one run. It was also the third-straight NSL game the Orphans won by a score of 3-2.
Howard Lake found themselves down 2-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth, but once again, there was no panic. In the bottom half of the fifth, the Orphans took advantage of sloppy play by the Diamond Devils. After Noah Bush led off the inning with a walk, Maple Plain gifted the Orphans their first run of the game, thanks to an error.
Matt Streich was looking to lay down a sacrifice bunt to move Bush into scoring position, but a wild throw by the Diamond Devils went into left field, allowing Bush to come all the way around and score to make it 2-1.
Streich was held up at third following the error, and Zach Kuefler tied the game at two with an RBI single. In just eight pitches, the Orphans turned a 2-0 deficit into a tied game.
After the Orphans rallied to take the lead, Jared Koch took control of the game on the mound. In the final four innings, Koch racked up four strikeouts to give the Orphans an extra boost late.
Koch wouldn’t stop there, though. In the bottom of the seventh, he helped himself out with an infield single that allowed Steve Boger to score and give Howard Lake a 3-2 lead.
The Orphans had a chance to add on to their lead in the eighth, but left the bases loaded. That didn’t come back to haunt Howard Lake as Koch retired the Diamond Devils in order in the top of ninth, finishing off a complete game victory for himself.
In nine innings of work, Koch scattered 11 hits and struck out eight to earn the win.
Kuefler, Boger, Brad Bickmann, and Koch all had two hits to lead the way offensively.
With the win, Howard Lake improved to 10-6 in the North Star League. They currently sit in a tie for third place with Maple Lake in the standings. Delano has the top record in the NSL at 15-1, with Hutchinson in second at 12-4.
Howard Lake returns to league play Sunday, July 14 in a big matchup at Hutchinson.