Merchants’ maiden voyage ends in playoffs

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 19, 2002

The inaugural season for the Austin Merchants Class C amateur baseball team came to an end in the first round of the Twin Rivers League playoffs Wednesday night, as third-seeded Dodge Center hosted the sixth-seeded Merchants to a 7-1 outcome in the Zumbro Division quarterfinals.

Dodge Center pitcher Owen Hoegh was not as dominant as he had been against Austin in the past, but he was still good enough to get the Dodgers out with a win. Hoegh struck out 10, walked two, and allowed five hits in the complete-game victory.

"We swung pretty well off of him actually," said Merchants’ creator Joe Serratore. "He threw 148 pitches, so we stretched him out. We tried to get him deep in the count."

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Hoegh allowed five singles, all to different Austin hitters, after throwing a no-hitter against the Merchants earlier this season.

Josh Kunze drove in the Merchants' only run with a base knock in the top of the sixth inning. Todd Walerak reached on an error and stole second and third to get into scoring position for Kunze.

The Austin pitching staff walked 11 hitters and hit two more in the season-ending defeat. Clint Ripley picked up the loss after allowing five runs through his five innings of work. Tim Johnson walked six in two innings, and Brandon Schuck did not allow a run in his inning of work.

"It's just those freebies," Serratore said of the walks. "It's unbelievable the stats with the walks."

Five of Dodge Center's seven runs came from hitters who reached with a walk or hit-by-pitch.

The Merchants' premiere season ended at 7-14 overall.

"It was a good inaugural season," Serratore said. "It was a little bit of a battle at times, but you've gotta walk before you can run."

"These guys went out and competed."

Kunze, Mark Toov, Mike Haugen, Matt Smith and Walerak each had hits for the Merchants.

"We actually hit the ball pretty well against (Hoegh)," said Merchants’ manager Nate Hansen. "It was a fun season, hopefully we can come back tough next year."

Dodge Center faces second-seeded Stewartville-Racine in the best-of-three Zumbro Division semifinals starting Friday.



000 001 000 -- 1 5 2

Dodge Ctr

000 321 10x -- 7 7 3

Ripley, Johnson (6), Schuck (8) and Kunze, Kvam (8); Hoegh and Pitzen. 2B -- DC: Murgan, Midthune.

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