DELANO – It was only fitting for the first nice day of the spring sports season to have the feeling of a playoff game. That was the case for the Delano baseball team as they hosted Southwest Christian in a Wright County Conference East matchup.
Both the Tigers and Stars got great starting pitching and made key plays throughout but it was Southwest Christian who escaped with an exciting 3-2 win over the Tigers Thursday night.
“It’s just about staying positive,” Delano coach Jeff Olson said about the message for his team after a tough loss. “It was a good competitive game between good teams with some good pitching. We just need to keep doing our thing and keep grinding and getting better every day. If we keep improving, we’ll be OK.”
Southwest Christian struck first in the top of the second thanks to a pair of Delano errors. The Stars pushed across two runs despite not collecting a hit as they took the first lead of the game.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to answer. Cade Bruett got the rally started in the bottom of the second with an infield single. With two outs, Colin Lommel kept the inning alive with a single and advanced to second on the throw-in to put runners on second and third with two outs. Needing a clutch hit, Will Ricke delivered for the Tigers with an RBI single to left to tie the game at two.
“Something we talk about is responding to whatever it may be,” Olson said. “That was nice to see. That was huge for our team and our momentum. We’re showing early that we can battle back. It’s great to see.”
Southwest Christian would retake the lead in the top of the fourth on an RBI single from Melvin Maldonado. The Stars would have a great chance to extend their lead in the fifth, but AJ Rasmussen and his defense worked out of a bases-loaded jam with one out. Needing a big day, Delano delivered as Oran Hinkle and Drew Dorsey turned a huge double play up the middle to keep the deficit at one.
Over the final three innings, Delano had plenty of chances to tie the game or even take the lead. In their final three innings of hitting, the Tigers left three runners on base including having a runner thrown out at home in the bottom of the seventh as the Stars held on for the win.
Rasmussen was tagged with the loss despite a strong performance on the mound. He went all seven innings allowing just one earned run off of eight hits while striking out 10. Rasmussen gave the Tigers a chance in the seventh. After giving up a leadoff double, he struck out three-straight batters to keep the deficit at one.
“AJ is our No. 1,” Olson said. “Then we’ve got other pitchers who can do the same thing for us. He gives us a great chance to win every time he goes out there. He’s going to compete and be a leader.”
Offensively, Delano had five players record at least one hit in the win. They got production from all over the lineup in big spots which is something Olson hopes his team can continue as the season progresses.
“Any good team is going to have that and you can’t just rely on the top of the lineup,” Olson said. “Other guys will have to step up and they did. We’ll try to keep building.”
For the complete story and more Delano Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the April 29 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.
Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports