Strusz's defense gives Red Wing a boost against RocketsRed Wing proved in its first two games of the Section 1AAA tournament that it can win with hitting and pitching. The Wingers offered evidence Thursday that their defense also can carry the team.
By: R-E Sports Staff, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing proved in its first two games of the Section 1AAA tournament that it can win with hitting and pitching. The Wingers offered evidence Thursday that their defense also can carry the team.
Junior Jack Strusz made a pair of fielding gems at first base and Cole Kelly threw out a potential base stealer as Red Wing held on to beat Rochester John Marshall 3-2 in the Final Four tournament at the Athletic Field.
With the win in front of a large home crowd, No. 4 Red Wing advanced to play No. 6 Rochester Mayo at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Wingers (18-5) are two wins away from the state tournament.
Strusz’s best fielding play occurred in the bottom of the fifth with one down and a runner on second. Red Wing starter Justin Cunningham got Ryan Lakin, the Rockets’ No. 3 hitter, to pop up a pitch, but it looked like the ball would land foul inside the enclosed Red Wing bullpen. Instead, Strusz leapt up against the fence, extended his glove out over the pen and hauled in the ball.
“I got goose bumps,” Cunningham said. “It was just an amazing play.”
He added: “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a play like that. That was something else.”
Strusz’s catch mitigated a pair of Red Wing errors to start the inning and helped keep No. 2 John Marshall off the scoreboard that frame.
In the previous inning, Strusz started and finished a 3-6-3 double play with Pat Kelly to get Red Wing out of a one-out, one-on situation.
“It obviously was a change in momentum,” Strusz said. “You get double plays like that you get momentum going in, you start swinging bats well. Big moments in the field start making your bats swing.”
The double play kept the score tied at 1. In the next half inning the Wingers scored twice.
Zach Garner’s double over the left fielder’s head in the fifth plated Ryan Boldt from first. After Pat Kelly reached on an error, Garner scored the winning run when Cole Kelly grounded into a double play. Garner, a junior second baseman, also doubled in the top of the first and came around to score on senior Cole Kelly’s single.
The defensive highlights were just what Cunningham needed because it seemed he was working out of the stretch all night. The senior left-hander pitched the first six innings and during that time 12 Rockets reached base.
John Marshall also stranded seven runners on base over the first six innings.
Senior Pat Kelly earned the save, but not before John Marshall managed one final threat. Alex Brady walked to lead off the inning, moved to second on a wild pitch and was sacrificed to third.
Pat Kelly responded by striking out Lakin looking with a breaking ball and then inducing a comebacker to the mound for the final out.
Mayo advanced by knocking off top-seeded Rochester Century 2-1 Thursday in the night’s first game.
To read more about the Wingers, pick up Saturday's newspaper.