Kirby’s blast vaults Hounds

Published 5:55 pm Friday, July 22, 2011

The Austin Greyhounds' John Kirby is greeted by teammates after his homerun in the bottom of the second inning Friday evening at Marcusen Park. - Eric Johnson/

It had been awhile since John Kirby had even swung, but on his first at-bat against Owatonna, he did something he had never done before with a wooden bat.

He went deep.

Greyhounds runner Matt Cano just makes it back to first in front of the tag of Owatonna first baseman Eric Hoberg during the first inning Friday night at Marcusen Park. - Eric Johnson/

Kirby hit a three-run line-drive homer over the left field fence to put the Austin Greyhounds up 4-1 in the fourth inning in an 11-1 win in seven innings over the Aces in Marcusen Park Friday.

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“He threw a two-seam fast ball over the plate and it was my first swing for about a month it seems like,” said Kirby. “I just went up there to get loose and I got ahold of one. I actually didn’t look at it, I was sprinting to first base and first base coach (Zach) Schara told me to slow down.”

Austin (20-8 overall) completely broke the game open in the fifth inning when Tyler Leopold doubled in a run, Craig Braaten singled in two runs, Kirby singled in a run and John Frein had a sacrifice fly to make it 11-1.

“Owatonna’s actually a better team than they looked like tonight,” Frein said. “But Kirby’s homer set the tone and it was over.”

Kirby, who is a defenseman for the Austin Bruins during hockey season, has been limited to just 22 at-bats this summer. He’s hitting .454 with 10 RBIs in those chances.

Kirby said the Hounds have not interfered with his hockey training.

“Working out helps for both of them. I’m staying in shape for hockey and baseball,” he said.

Austin Greyhounds pitcher Nels Nelson pitches again Owatonna Friday night at Marcusen Park. - Eric Johnson/

Before coming to the Bruins, Kirby played for the Owatonna Express and he played plenty of games against the Owatonna Huskies in high school.

“I’ve got a history with the town and it feels good (to get my first homer) against them, but it would feel good against anyone,” he said.

Nels Nelson struck out eight in seven innings as he allowed just four hits and two walks to get the win.

The Hounds (5-1 Section 2B) will now look to a key Section 2B game against the Rochester Royals at Marcusen Park at 7:30 p.m. If Austin wins that contest, they’d be in the driver’s seat to lock up the No. 1 seed for the section tournament, which begin Saturday, Aug. 6.

“There’s a lot of section games left to be played, but we’re in a good position,” Hounds player/manager Matt Cano said.

Kirby said the squad is feeling very confident as the postseason draws near.

“We’ve got a lot of good players and we’ve got depth,” he said. “That’s the one thing we didn’t have last year. We usually had a tough time getting nine guys and now you expect to have 15 guys at every game.”
Owatonna 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 4 3

Hounds 0 1 3 0 7 0 X — 11 9 0

Hounds pitching: Nels Nelson (W), 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 8 K, 1 HBP

Hounds hitting: Andy Swank, 0-for-2, R, SB, 2 BBs; Tyler Leopold, 1-for-4, double, RBI, 2 R; Matt Cano, 0-for-1, BB; Dan Swift, 0-for-2, RBI, R, HBP; Craig Braaten, 2-for-3, 2 RBIs, 2 R; Matt Raso, 2-for-4, double, 2 R; John Kirby, 2-for-3, HR, 4 RBIs, 2 R; Joe Kroc, 1-for-3; John Frein, 1-for-1, RBI, BB; Nelson, R, HBP, BB; Steve Hovland, BB; Joe Huffman, 0-for-1; John Halverson, 0-for-1