Huffman lifts Blue Sox over Hounds to get to state tournament

Published 11:09 pm Friday, August 14, 2009

Just two days after their toughest loss of the season, the Austin Blue Sox came through with their biggest win of the season when they beat the Austin Greyhounds in a Section 2B elimination game to earn a trip to the Class ‘B’ state amateur baseball tournament, which begins Thursday in Arlington, Minn.

The Blue Sox rode the pitching of Joe Huffman to a 4-2 win over the Hounds Friday in Marcusen Park.

“I couldn’t of told you on Wednesday that we would’ve come out and played like this,” Blue Sox manager Josh Kunze, who was three-for-three with a run said. “I don’t know if I would’ve believed it. I didn’t know what this team had. We found out a lot about ourselves tonight.”

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Huffman didn’t allow a hit to the last 15 Hounds hitters he faced and he finished with 11 strikeouts in nine innings of work.

“It feels absolutely wonderful to get this win against a great pitcher like Dave (Meyer),” Huffman said. “When it comes down to clutch time, it’s the first time we’ve beaten him to get to the state tournament. I can’t stop smiling right now.”

The Blue Sox (20-6 overall) took the lead for good in the third inning when Brian Voigt knocked in Kunze with a two out single to right field. The winners went up 3-1 in the fourth when Joe Kroc knocked in a run with another two-out single to right to score Winston Smith.

The Hounds made it 3-2 in the fifth when Matt Cano singled in Mitch Mullenbach. But the Hounds left runners on first and second when Huffman struck out Matt Raso and Tyler Leopold to end the frame. The Hounds (13-17 overall) would not put a runner past first base the rest of the night.

“It was tough to watch,” said Meyer, who struck out 12 in eight innings of work. “I never doubt the Hounds that they can’t score runs, because they can. It just takes one or two things to get it going, but we couldn’t get it going. Huffman did a great job, he kept the ball down in the zone and he got some calls when he needed them.”

While the Blue Sox had nine hits off of Meyer, they were all singles. But their goal was never to bash the ball of the Hounds’ ace.

“It’s just a matter of sticking to the plan,” Kunze said. “If you allow Dave to do what he wants, it’s going to be a long night for you. We took pitches and tried to get his pitch count up, so we could tire him out a bit by the seventh.”

While the Blue Sox offense got going, Huffman got stronger as the game went on.

“There’s some goofy little soreness in my elbow this year where it takes a few innings to get loose,” he said.

The Blue Sox got a big boost from the return of outfielders Aaron Port and Nate Johnson. After the Hounds took a 1-0 lead in the first on a run scoring single by Matt Cano, Port led off the bottom of the first with a single off of Meyer. After advancing to second on a bunt by Kroc and to third on a fly-out by Casey Toops, Port scored on a two-out wild pitch that struck out Dan Swift.

Port missed Wednesday’s game as he was with his wife, who gave birth to their first child.

“I was a little tired this week, I knew we had to come out and put some runs on the board early,” he said. “It was tough being in the hospital (Wednesday) and hearing about the loss, but I knew we would come with new intensity tonight and take care of business.”

Huffman was slated to pitch six innings before the bullpen took over, but he knew there was a chance he would go the distance.

“Me and Josh had a little talk yesterday after we let the emotions go Wednesday,” Huffman said. “I said all right, me and you. You’re catching, I’m pitching. Let’s buckle down and get it done.”

While the Hounds season comes to an end, the Blue Sox — who took second at state two years ago — will play in a first round elimination game in the state tournament at Arlington at approximately 8:45 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s so hard to be on this ride, because it’s so up and down,” Kunze said. “Hopefully we don’t put up a stinker in the first round. But you know what, I wouldn’t want to be in the opposite dugout as us.”

The Blue Sox drafted Raso, Craig Braaten and Nick Bowe for the state tournament and the Royals drafted Meyer, Peter Korfhage and Cano.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E

Hounds 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 9 1

Blue Sox 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 X 4 9 2

Blue Sox pitching: Joe Huffman (W), 9 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 2 ER, 11 K

Blue Sox hitting: Aaron Port, 2-for-5, R; Joe Kroc, 1-for-4, RBI; Casey Toops, 0-for-5; Dan Swift, 0-for-4, R, BB; Josh Kunze, 3-for-3, R; Brian Voigt, 1-for-4, RBI; Winston Smith, 1-for-4, R; Brady Klingfus, 0-for-1, 2 BBs; Brandon Rector, 1-for-1; Nate Johnson, 0-for-1, 2 HBPs

Hounds pitching: Dave Meyer (L), 9 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 4 R, 3 ER, 12 K, 2 HBP

Hounds hitting: Nick Rohne, 1-for-4, R, SB; Mitch Mullenbach, 1-for-4, R, SB; Craig Braaten, 3-for-4, RBI, SB; Matt Cano, 1-for-3, RBI, BB; Matt Raso, 0-for-4; Tyler Leopold, 1-for-4; Tim Kaplan, 0-for-3; Dan Zielke, 1-for-4, double; John Frein, 1-for-4