Freshman pitcher lifts Packers

Published 9:03 pm Thursday, April 12, 2012

Austin third baseman Anthony Condit makes the throw on a shallow grounder in the first inning against Mankato West Thursday at Riverland Community College.

In his first ever varsity mound start, Austin freshman Nik Gasner wasn’t afraid to throw his best stuff and it paid off as the Packer baseball team beat Mankato West 5-1 in Dick Seltz Field Thursday.

Gasner threw an array of fast balls and sliders as he struck out eight, while allowing just four hits, two walks and zero earned runs in the seven inning win.

Austin's Jake Thompson sneaks back into first on a throw over against Mankato West Thursday afternoon at Riverland Community College. -- Eric Johnson/

“I was pretty nervous, but I knew I could pitch and I have confidence in myself. I know my abilities,” Gasner said. “I had more control of my slider than my fast ball, but I’ll work on that.”

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Gasner never backed down, even when it looked like his control was slipping. In the fifth, he allowed a lead-off walk and the next runner reached on an error, but he calmly retired the next three hitters in order with a lone run scoring on a double steal that made it 2-1.

In the sixth, the Scarlets (0-3 overall, 0-3 Big Nine) had runners on first and third with one out and Gasner forced a groundout and struck out Ryan Schlichte looking with a 3-2 curve ball to end the frame.

“I was just looking to get the next hitter and not look at the runner. I know I can throw,” Gasner said. “We already almost have as many wins as we had last year and it feels good to get it.”

Thursday’s win puts Austin within one victory of last year’s total of three wins.

Austin head coach Troy Watkins had nothing but praise for his freshman hurler.

“He pitched a great game,” Watkins said. “I’m really proud of the way he kept his composure and he had a good mix. I can’t say enough about how well he pitched.”

Austin's Zach Huntley swings on a pitch in the first inning against Mankato West at Riverland Community College. -- Eric Johnson/

The Packers (2-3 overall, 2-2 Big Nine) took the lead in the bottom of the second when Hunter Gleason smacked a double to left field that scored two. Austin added to that lead in the fifth when Marcus Stoulil crushed a triple to deep left to score Zach Huntley and Stoulil scored on a two-out base hit by Gasner to make it 4-1.

“I had to pull out my sand wedge and it went a little farther than I thought,” Stoulil said of his triple. “It was low and in and I really didn’t expect it to go that far.”

Stoulil finished three-for-four and he knocked in another run with a two-out infield single in the sixth. He said winning two of the last three games will be big for Austin’s confidence.

“This is huge,” Stoulil said. “To come out here and stick it to a team that we lost a close one to last year is good. This puts us in the right mind set.”

West 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 — 1 4 6

Austin 0 2 0 0 2 1 X — 5 7 2

Austin pitching: Nik Gasner (W), 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 1 R, 0 ER, 8 K

Austin hitting: Gabe Kasak, 1-for-4; Zach Huntley, 1-for-3, R, BB; Marus Stoulil, 2-for-4, triple, 2 RBIs, R, BB; Anthony Condit, 0-for-3; Jacob Thompson, 0-for-2, R, BB; Gasner, 2-for-3, RBI, R; Trevor Feuerhak, 0-for-2; Hunter Gleason, 1-for-2, double, 2 RBIs, SB, BB; Sean Coffey, 0-for-3; Zach Wilder, R, BB