Fifteen Ks, nine-run sixth propel Tigers past Hancock in season opener

Fifteen strikeouts by Tiger sophomore Drew Huebner and nine runs in the bottom of the sixth inning gave Morris Area / Chokio-Alberta a 10-2 win over Hancock in the 2023 season opener for baseball.

“I was really excited about our season opener. Hancock gave us a great game,” eighth-year coach Kirby Sayles said. “I was proud of how our team responded when the momentum began to swing in their favor.”

“The weather was better than I thought it was going to be, it definitely got a little colder later in the night,” Hancock’s first-year coach Cory Bedel said. “Field conditions were pretty decent for the winter we had. They had a little snow in centerfield, but they just put a little temporary fence around it so (the field) wasn’t bad at all.”

It was the Owls’ first time on a true baseball diamond this season, practicing mostly indoors and on streets for the past month.

“We did get out one day on our little league infield, but we were not able to do any outfield stuff since that was torn up, so this was the first time on a full baseball field for us,” added Bedel, who is looking at scheduling some practices at the old Cougar Baseball Field in Morris over the next week or so.

Hancock held Morris/C-A to just one run until the big sixth inning rally. After a scoreless first, MACA got on the board first with a solo home run by Trevor Buss.

“Trevor Buss with his first varsity homerun was an awesome moment, and I couldn’t be happier for that kid,” Sayles said.

After both teams went three-and-out in the third and fourth, Hancock was able to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the fifth. On the first pitch of his at bat, Ambrose Rinkenberger doubled to center field, scoring Chase Evink, who led off the inning with a single three batters earlier.

The Tigers broke open the game in the sixth. They led off with back-to-back doubles by Riley Asmus and Kaleb Breuer. John Kleindl was hit by a pitch to load the bases and a bases loaded walk started the nine-run rally.

“It was great to see the team take advantage of walks late in the game and bust that game open to give us a little breathing room,” said Sayles.

Ozzy Jerome connected on a fly ball to center field, scoring three runs in the process and came around to score on two wild pitches. A third wild pitch allowed Buss to score, giving MACA a 7-1 lead with just one out.

Owen Anderson made it 8-1 by scoring on a passed ball and Drew Huebner singled in Riley Asmus to go ahead 10-1.

Hancock’s Donovan Curfman connected on a solo home run as the lead off batter in the top of the seventh, but the Owls got no closer.

“First career home run on varsity, definitely a big highlight for him and us,” Bedel said of Curfman’s hit.

Huebner got the start on the hill and went six innings, giving up just one earned run on two hits. He walked one and struck out 15.

“It was great to see Huebner do what he did on the mound, he’s going to be a big part of a very talented pitching staff that we have,” Sayles said. “Dan Travis did an excellent job commanding the strike zone in his inning of work, and really mixed well.”

For Hancock, Davin Rose got the start on the mound He went four innings, giving up one earned run on one hit while walking one and striking out four.

“Davin Rose pitched a great game for us,” said Bedel, even though who he was throwing to was in question at the beginning of the day. The Owls didn’t have a catcher.

“We had to get creative and work with Hudson VerSteeg and Chase Evink, who both have never really caught at the JV or varsity level before,” Bedel said. “They did a good job for their first time behind the plate.”

Bradley Klucas joined the roster at the beginning of last week and will be filling that catching role, Bedel noted, “It will be nice to get him up to speed and into some games.”

For a game that was thrown together the day of, teams are just happy to be playing outside on a baseball field at this point in April.

“Obviously it would’ve been nice to practice on a field before your first game but it is what it is,” Bedel said. “We live in Minnesota.”

Hancock is next slated to play a doubleheader at Border West Tuesday, April 25 and at Brandon-Evansville Friday, April 28 before traveling to Prinsburg for a triangular Saturday, April 29.

The Tigers next host a three-game homestand. It starts against Benson Tuesday, April 25 and then Sauk Centre comes to town Thursday, April 27 before hosting Melrose Tuesday, May 2.