Column: Blue Sox pitchers catch fire

Published 10:18 pm Monday, July 21, 2008

Don’t look now, but the Blue Sox pitchers have been on a silent tear over the past couple of weeks, and the offense is starting to catch up.

In their last seven games, Blue Sox pitching has allowed a total of just six earned runs and combined for a total of 55 strikeouts.

In those starts, the only time the Blue Sox gave up more than one earned run was when Duell Higbe allowed two earned runs in a 4-2 win over Chaseberg/Coon Valley July 13.

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In all the other seven games, the Blue Sox allowed one earned run or less.

That kind of pitching is exactly what the Blue Sox will need if they hope to get back in contention for a state title — they took second last year in Class ‘B.’

And the way things are looking, the Sox hurlers are only getting stronger. On Sunday against Marshall, Sean Breslin was dominant through four innings as he struck out eight and cruised through the Marshall lineup. He didn’t look anything like the guy who the Chicago Wildcats roughed up for 17 hits and 10 earned runs in the SPAMtown Challenge. In fact, Breslin has been on fire since that June 27 loss.

Back to Sunday — after Breslin had to leave due to a work schedule, Brady Banse came in and calmly struck out seven in the last five frames. Banse has come a long way since his early struggles and is now looking like another solid arm for Austin to go to.

But as good as the last seven games have been on the mound for Austin, it hasn’t yet gotten them over .500 as their record is 13-13 overall.

The bad news: Austin lost two of the last seven games by scores of 1-0 against Owatonna July 11 and Chaseberg/Coon Valley July 13 and it lost a third by a score of 3-2 to Jordan July 15.

The good news: The Blue Sox scored 11 runs in their last two contests and their offense is starting to catch up with their pitching staff — which consists of Higbe (1-1, 0.00 ERA), Breslin (3-3, 3.44 ERA), Joe Huffman (2-5, 3.62 ERA), and Banse (2-3, 8.03 ERA).

Over the past weekend, Dan Swift (.311 avg., 16 RBIs) racked up 5 RBIs in wins over Rosemount and Marshall and the Blue Sox got some of their speed back when Andy Swank returned from vacation in the 7-1 spanking Marshall Sunday. Swank, who is hitting .395, beat out a bunt hit and an infield hit to spark Austin.

The team will get even more speed when Casey Toops (.429 avg.) and Aaron Port (.404 avg.) are expected to return to the lineup in the near future, which could give the Blue Sox some big hitting as they look to prepare for the postseason.