Austin pitcher Nels Nelson delivers in the first inning of their playoff game against the Rochester Royals Wednesday night at Marcusen Park. -- Eric Johnson/

Blue Sox let one slip away

Published 12:47am Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Austin Blue Sox couldn’t clinch a trip to the state amateur baseball tournament Wednesday night and if they want to know why, it’s probably best for them to look in the mirror.

Austin committed five errors and saw a four-run lead disappear in the last three innings of an 8-7 loss to the Rochester Royals at Marcusen Park, and the Blue Sox (19-9 overall) will now play the Austin Greyhounds with a trip to state on the line Friday at Marcusen at 7:30 p.m.

“We just didn’t make good pitches when we needed to,” Blue Sox manager Josh Kunze said. “We choked, we blew it. We were up seven to three with two innings left and you’d think we’d be able to hang on to that with the guys that we have.”

Rochester pulled to within 7-4 in the seventh inning when Spencer Brady doubled and a run scored on an Austin fielding error in the outfield with two outs. Blue Sox pitcher Nels Nelson, who allowed zero earned runs after the first inning, got a fly-out to end the inning, but he left the game for reliever Joe Huffman in the eighth.

The Austin Blue Sox's Aaron Port bunts in the first inning during their playoff game against the Rochester Royals Wednesday night. -- Eric Johnson/

Huffman allowed three straight hits to open the eighth inning before hitting Shawn Liembeck with a pitch with the bases loaded to make it a 7-6 game with one out. Ryan Dennisen singled in a run to tie the game for Rochester and Spencer Brady knocked in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to center field.

“Nels has historically been a slow starter and once he gets about three innings under his belt he settles in,” Kunze said. “Maybe I made a mistake by taking him out, but his pitch count was high at 110 pitches. We’ll take a two inning sprint with Joe Huffman with a three run lead every time, but tonight it didn’t work out.”

Steve Serratore and Kunze drew back-to-back two-out walks in the bottom of the ninth, but the Blue Sox ‘s chances of a comeback ended when Casey Toops flew out to deep right field.

Austin had just one hit off of Rochester reliever Josh Conley, who threw four and two-thirds of an inning.

“He was around the zone and he wasn’t giving us free bases,” Kunze said. “We were getting good swings, we just got under it a couple of times and they made some nice plays in the field.”

Joe Kroc put the Blue Sox up 3-2 in the second inning with a clutch two-out, two-run double to right field.

Austin also took advantage of some wild pitching by Rochester starter Austin Baukol — who threw seven wild pitches. Four of those wild pitches led directly to Austin runs.

Nelson pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the third by striking out Brady and he got Dave Adams to pop out with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.

The Blue Sox swept the regular season series over the Greyhounds, winning by scores of 6-1 and 9-2.

“We’re always confident, we just couldn’t close out tonight,” Kunze said. “Now we’ll play the Greyhounds and we’ll let the chips fall where they may. We’re confident we’ll win, but we still have to go out and play the game and execute.”

Royals    2 0 1  0 0 0  1 4 0 — 8 11 1

Blue Sox 0 3 2  0 2 0  0 0 0 — 7 8 5

Blue Sox pitching: Nels Nelson, 7 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 HBP, 8 K; Joe Huffman (L), 2 IP, 4 H, BB, 4 ER, 1 HBP, 1 K

Blue Sox hitting: Joe Kroc, 1-for-4, double, 2 RBIs, BB; Aaron Port, 1-for-4, SB, BB; Andy Swank, 0-for-5; Dan Swift, 2-for-4, R, BB; Craig Selk, 2-for-5, double, 2 R; Darin Wagner, 1-for-4, 2 R, SB; Steve Serratore, 0-for-2, 3 BBs; Tyler Nelson, 1-for-4, R; Casey Toops, 0-for-2, R, BB, HBP; Marty Dick, 0-for-1, RBI; Josh Kunze, BB; Alan May, SB

Royals pitching: Austin Baukol, 4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 5 BB, 7 R, 5 ER, 6 K; Josh Conley, 4 2/3 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 0 R, HBP

Royals hitting: Tim Osterlin, 3-for-5; Jimmy Strain, 1-for-4; Ronnie Olson, 3-for-5, 2 doubles, RBI; Chuck Krom, 1-for-5, double RBI; Dave Adams, 1-for-5, 2 RBIs; Josh Matti, 0-for-3; Bryan Dennisen, 1-for-3, RBI; Spencer Brady, 1-for-5, double, RBI; Kirk Rubado, 1-for-4; Shawn Liembeck, HBP, RBI

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