Packers rally to split with East

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2003

It was a good Saturday afternoon at Marcusen Park if you were a baseball fan, but not so good if you had the Austin High School prom to get ready for.

The Packer baseball team mounted comebacks in both games of a doubleheader split with Mankato East, losing the opener 4-3 in nine innings, but hanging on in the second game 6-5.

"I was happy that we came out hitting (in the second game)," said AHS head coach Troy Watkins. "We were able to get the clutch hits we didn't get in the first game. We can't take any offense for granted."

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While getting only two hits through five innings, Austin still stranded five runners in scoring position thanks to five walks issued by East starter Darin Hendley.

The Cougars had their troubles too, leaving the bases loaded in the first, but they were able to get two scores off pitcher Andy Swank in the second off three hits and an error.

East added another run in the fifth with three more singles. A double and a walk in the sixth chased Swank in favor of Paul Leathers, who got the last two outs.

Austin exorcised some of their clutch-hitting frustrations in the home half of the sixth. They got their first two runners on when Adam Edge reached on an error and Sean Selmecki singled. Watkins then pinch-hit Davis Lyon, who tied the game up by smacking a towering three-run homer by the scoreboard in left.

"It was great spot to for us to be able to fit him in," Watkins said of Lyon. "He got a pitch he could drive and a little help from the wind."

Eric Ramirez chased Hendley with a base hit, but Austin was unable to get Ramirez past third, keeping it a 3-3 game.

As the play went into extra innings, East reliever David Rivers continued to pitch well, retiring all 11 batters he faced.

Both teams traded zeroes until the ninth, when Nate Hawker opened for East with a double. Rivers then helped himself out with the bat by singling Hawker in, although he was thrown out trying to take second on the play.

But the damage was done, and another perfect inning from Rivers secured East's 4-3 win.

Let's play two

Game two saw Austin come out swinging the bats with more authority.

Leadoff man Nate Johnson wasted no time in scoring the first run, tripling to left-center and scoring on an errant pickoff throw by East starter John Ries. After Joe Kroc walked, Kyle Rizzi blasted a double to bring him around. He scored one out later on a base hit by Swank. Austin then loaded the bases, but Ries limited the damage to three runs in the inning by fanning the last two Packer hitters.

Austin starter Sean Selmecki was cruising along until the fourth. After getting the first two outs, he surrendered two singles and a double before a two-run blast by Josh Spiess gave East a 4-3 lead.

The Cougars added another two-out score the following inning, as Pete Harstad doubled and scored on a single by Joe Peterson to knock out Selmecki.

Rizzi got Austin back within one, leading off the fifth with his second double of the game and scoring on a hit by Selmecki.

This brought in reliever Jimmy Olsen, fresh off the East junior varsity squad. He got a double-play grounder to end the fifth, but the Packers got to the youngster in the next inning.

John Bastyr walked and Lyon singled to lead things off. Johnson and Kroc then followed with RBI-singles to give Austin the lead, as Lyon slid in with the go-ahead run to knock the ball out of the catcher's mitt.

Hendley began a potential Cougar rally in the seventh with a base hit, but a nice double play by Kroc snuffed out the threat and secured the win in relief for Johnson. He pitched two innings of shutout ball, striking out the side in the sixth.

"Nate's done a good job of coming in and throwing strikes at the end of games for us," Watkins said.

Johnson also had a nice game at the plate, going 2-for-4 with the run-scoring triple and the game-tying RBI.

Rizzi was also 2-4 with a couple of doubles, two runs scored and an RBI.

Austin is now 8-5 in Big Nine Conference play and 8-6 overall. They head north Tuesday to take on Hill-Murray before returning home for a rematch with Winona on Thursday.


Game One



WP--Rivers. LP--Leathers (0-1).

Game Two



WP--Johnson (1-0). LP--Olson.