Spartans use patience at the plate to defeat Rangers, 11-5

NASHWAUK — Members of the Nashwauk-Keewatin High School baseball team are told to be patient at the plate, to look for their pitch and swing at strikes.

The Spartans displayed that patience Tuesday afternoon at Nashwauk when they put together eight hits, nine walks and three errors to score in double digits in an 11-5 victory over Mt. Iron-Buhl.

“We were patient at the plate but we also need to capitalize when we have guys on base,” Nashwauk-Keewatin manager Brian Gangl said. “We left too many guys on base again. But any time anybody in your lineup is a threat is a good thing. They have to pitch to everybody and it’s always good to see when that whole lineup is contributing through the game.”

The Rangers scored a pair of runs in the top of the first inning off Nashwauk-Keewatin starting pitcher Damon Gangl. Bradon Tiedeman scored the first run thanks to a Spartans error and Riley Kintner added an RBI single as MI-B led 2-0.

Nashwauk-Keewatin put up a three-spot in the bottom of the second inning off Rangers starting pitcher Kintner. Kole Platt had an RBI double in the inning while Spencer Engel had a run-scoring single and another run scampered home on a wild pitch.

Mt. Iron-Buhl retaliated with two runs in the top of the third inning to regain the lead at 4-3. Carter Martinson drove in one run when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Jace Powell brought home the other run with a RBI single.

The Spartans scored four runs in the bottom of the third inning to take the lead for good. Nick Miskovich and Gangl both had two-run singles in the inning to boost Nashwauk-Keewatin’s lead to 7-4.

The Rangers pulled to within 7-5 with a single run in the fourth inning. Vinny Benkusky doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch to account for the run. That would be the extent of the Mt. Iron-Buhl offense for the day because the Spartans brought in eighth grade left-hander Daniel Clusiau and he was lights out for the remainder of the game in saving Gangl’s win.

Engel had a RBI single in the sixth inning for the Spartans to boost the lead to 8-5, and Nashwauk-Keewatin was able to add three more runs in the sixth inning to put the game away. Platt and Miskovich both walked with the bases loaded to bring in runs and another run scored on a wild pitch.

Clusiau came on in relief with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning and he retired 10 of the 11 batters he faced, seven on strikes. For the game, he pitched 3 1/3 innings and allowed one hit while not issuing a walk and fanning seven. Gangl, who picked up the win, pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits while walking four, striking out three and hitting one batter.

Manager Gangl said it was fun to see Clusiau come in and do well, especially being just in eighth grade.

“Danny has a good baseball IQ and he came in and did the job,” Gangl said. “He came in relaxed, he threw the ball low, he threw the ball in the right spots. He did a wonderful job.”

Mt. Iron-Buhl coach Don Burke agreed that Clusiau pitched well in relief.

“Clusiau came in and threw strikes and the lefty gave us a little bit of a different wrinkle,” said Burke. “He threw strikes and that’s all you can ask from a kid.

“Today we got a couple players thrown out at home but I figured with the wet conditions we might as well chance it and see if Nashwauk-Keewatin could make the play, and they made the plays. You have to tip the hat to them as they did what they had to do.”

Kintner took the loss for MI-B while Martinson and Landon Kilpela also saw mound duty.

Engel had two hits and two RBIs for Nashwauk-Keewatin while Gaige Waldvogel had two hits and walked twice, scored two runs and stole three bases. Ethan Heyblom, Jager Nash and Jeff Lorenz each scored two runs while Platt had a double, scored a run and drove in two. Miskovich had a hit, a run scored and three RBIs while Gangl had a hit and two RBIs.

Burke said he was very pleased with the play of his team on Tuesday.

“We are still young and kind of inexperienced so I am pleasantly surprised and I am happy that we kept it kind of close until the end and then it kind of got out of hand,” Burke explained. “As of now we are trying to get good pitching and trying to put some good swings on some balls, little things to try to improve on.”

With the win, Nashwauk-Keewatin improves to 9-3 for the season. It has four games remaining in the regular season and Gangl said the Spartans are close to playing their best ball of the season right now.

“I think with our spring it takes a little bit of time and that can be a frustrating time for players and coaches,” Gangl said. “Coming to the ball park ready to play, having a good baseball IQ, knowing what to do next with the ball, learn from the past and be ready for all the situations to come.

“We have played some really good games offensively and defensively. We let two slide away from us when we had the lead in the seventh inning so those are the ones that sting. But you need to learn from them, pick your head up and be ready for the next game.”

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