Eagan ends Austin#039;s section run

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2003

After a narrow 1-0 defeat to No. 2 seed Eagan on Saturday, the No. 10 seeded Austin baseball team was feeling good about its chances in the rematch Monday. It was not to be, however, as their hosts ended the Packers' postseason run by the score of 5-0.

Austin had reached the second round of the Section 1AAA playoffs by virtue of their 1-0 upset of Waseca on Thursday. The Packers promptly found themselves in the middle of another pitcher's duel against Eagan.

"It was a very close, very well-played game," said AHS head coach Troy Watkins. "Their guy just threw a bit better than ours."

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Packer starter Andy Swank had a no-hitter going through the first 5 1/3 innings on Saturday, but he got into a bit of trouble in the sixth. The Wildcats put together a couple of base hits, setting the stage for Andrew Kess' RBI grounder that skipped over the glove of the Packer third baseman.

Swank would have to settle for the loss despite allowing only three hits over his six innings of work.

Austin did not have many chances against Eagan starter Mark Dolenc, as Nate Johnson's single would be the only hit he would allow all day. AHS managed to load the bases with two outs in the second, but Marcus Ball flied out to end the threat.

The Packers' best opportunity would be in the seventh when Sean Selmecki drew a one-out walk. He moved to second on a passed ball and then to third on an Adam Edge groundout. Dolenc then uncorked a wild pitch, bringing Selmecki plateward with what looked to be the tying run. But the ball hit the backstop and caromed right to the catcher, who threw to Dolenc covering to nab Selmecki and end the game.

"It was a good chance to take," Watkins said of the decision to send the runner. "Both the catcher and the pitcher made a good play on the ball."

Austin rebounded against Waseca though, racking up a 10-0 lead before the game was called after six innings. They were aided by four Blue Jay errors in the six-run third. Swank had a two-run triple for the big blow in the inning.

Nate Johnson threw six shutout innings to improve his record to 3-0 on the season, surrendering just four Waseca hits while striking out four and walking two. He got it done at the plate as well, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and another driven in. Kyle Rizzi was also 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI's.

This set up a chance for revenge against Eagan, although the Packers would need to defeat them twice to move on from Bracket D.

The second meeting was not as dramatic as the first. Kess got to the Packers again, blasting a solo home run in the first off starter Kyle Rizzi.

Eagan blew it open in the fifth thanks in part to a couple of dropped fly balls. Wildcat starter John Witt helped himself with a two-run single between third and short. When the inning was finally over, Austin found themselves in a 5-0 hole.

The Packers had two of their four hits in the first. Johnson led off with a base hit but was thrown out at second on an attempted sacrifice bunt from Joe Kroc. Rizzi followed with an infield single, but Witt stranded both runners.

Witt also foiled Austin in the seventh after they put runners on first and second with two outs. Witt finished with 10 strikeouts.

Rizzi gave up six hits and three earned runs over six innings, striking out three and issuing two intentional walks. Although he finished his Packer career on a losing note, he was named Big Nine All-Conference for the second year in a row, joining Andy Swank as the two Packers on the team.

"He's had a great career," Watkins said of Rizzi, a three-year letterwinner. "He's just so solid in every aspect of the game, he's got everything you could look for in a player."

Austin finishes the season at 11-12 and fifth in the Big Nine with a 9-8 record.

"I think we showed we could play with anyone," Watkins said. "This year was a nice step up for us.

"We've got a lot of people returning, so we expect to be a contender next season in the Big Nine."