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Red Wing's Ty Buck is hit by a pitch during the third inning of Friday's 4-3 loss to Northfield. The Wingers had just three hits in the game, and fall to 2-5 on the season. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)
Red Wing's Ty Buck is hit by a pitch during the third inning of Friday's 4-3 loss to Northfield. The Wingers had just three hits in the game, and fall to 2-5 on the season. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)

Baseball: Errors cost Wingers against Northfield

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sports Red Wing, 55066

Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

With just one full-time starter back, and two part-time players, it was going to be a bit of a rebuilding year for Red Wing. But throw in an uncooperative spring, and the ability to hone skills and gain experience has been spotty at best.

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For example, in the last week, the Wingers had four practices, and all were indoors. And when Cody Leitner threw the first pitch of Friday’s game against Northfield, a full seven days had passed since Red Wing had played a game.

The Raiders would go on to win, 4-3, but the first four innings had the feel of an early April tilt.

“It’s tough,” said Red Wing head coach Paul Hartmann. “We were talking with (Northfield’s) staff, it feels like a season-opener today. The hard thing is, we had a lot of energy at practice this week. For four indoor practices, we had a lot of energy. But we came out here today, and we didn’t have that energy. Some of it’s physical, but a lot of the errors we made were passive, mental errors. If we clean those up, we don’t give up bases, we don’t give up runs, and we win the ball game.”

The errors started on the first batter of the game when Thomas McDonald’s grounder to first ended up in right field. McDonald would steal second and score two batters later on Caleb Malek’s single.

Leitner settled in after a five-batter first, retiring the next six in a row.

The Wingers went down in order in the first, then rode three straight Northfield errors to a three-run second that saw Zach Collins hit an RBI single, and Austin Strand pick up an RBI on a fielder’s choice.

But that would be the end of things offensively for Red Wing, who managed two more hits the rest of the way, and would go three-up, three-down in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

The Raiders responded with a three-run fourth, set up by back-to-back singles from Zach Bakko and Cody Polzin. Bakko scored on a throwing error, while Colin Sheply drove in Polzin with a groundout, and Joseph Eckhoff drove in Mitchell Bornhauser with an RBI single.

Leitner allowed two more hits over the final three innings, staying out of trouble the entire way.

“The most positive thing is that Cody got through that inning where they got to him, but he came back and threw three zeroes up on the board,” Hartmann said. “That says a lot about him. I think he was questioning whether he could continue to go, but he was a bulldog for us those last three innings. It’s unfortunate we didn’t provide him with run support.”

Hartmann added that the Wingers “have no margin for error,” so clean defense is needed to compete. Leitner has started four games for Red Wing, dropping to 0-2 on the season with a 3.53 ERA and one walk over 21 2/3 innings. The offense has scored just 21 runs in six games, including a season-high eight in a season-opening win over Northfield.

The Wingers (2-5) will host Mahtomedi Saturday, and a doubleheader against Holy Angels on Monday. And with six games scheduled in the next seven days, Hartmann will finally be able to keep his team on the field, and, with any luck, find out the identity of this young group.

“As we thought in March, and we thought at the beginning of April, we’re going to be a work in progress here,” Hartmann said. “We’re going to know a lot more in a week…we just have to get our minds right and continue to get better.”

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