By Reece Hemmesch Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — After its own rough fielding performance and a late-inning rally by Sleepy Eye, the Mankato Loyola baseball team dropped its first game of the season on Friday, falling 8-7 in a nonconference game at Franklin Rogers Park.
Four different pitchers walked seven Sleepy Eye hitters, and the Crusaders amounted four errors, which proved costly in the big innings.
“We made a couple mistakes and it’s tough to win games when you’re giving out that many free passes,” Loyola coach John Landkamer said. “They did a good job of taking advantage of that. Pitching and defense is the name of the game, and we’ll get back to that, but it was just one of those days.”
It was a tale of two games for both the Crusaders and the Indians.
Loyola took the first portion of the game in stride while struggling through the other. The Crusaders scored six runs in the first two innings. Senior Shane Sellner’s first-inning double high off the fence in left center brought in two runs, and Will Cipos knocked him in with an RBI groundout to make it 3-0.
Sleepy Eye answered back with three of their own in the second inning, which Loyola echoed in the scoring column with three more in the second. The Indians added two more in the top of the third, where the scoring ceased until the top of the sixth and the game at a 6-5 pace.
From there, Sleepy Eye took over, leading off the sixth inning with a single and a walk against Cipos, the Loyola reliever. Cipos allowed another runner off an error that brought in the tying run, before Brodie Martinka entered the game for one batter, whom he walked, setting up another pitching change with senior Mark Korteum taking the mound.
With the bases loaded, Korteum walked the first batter, bringing in the go-ahead run for Sleepy Eye. That set up a high pop-up to Korteum during the very next at-bat that appeared like the final out of the inning. Korteum stumbled on the mound and let the ball fall as another Indian runner crossed the plate, making the score 8-6.
The Crusaders tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth thanks to three straight singles from Austin Ellingworth, Sellner and Brett Taylor, but Sleepy Eye reliever Dylan Klein managed to force a groundout from Cipos to keep the Indians ahead.
Loyola had one more shot in the bottom of the seventh as sophomore Noah Rajtar came to the plate with the tying run in scoring position. But he flied out to the left field, and Loyola fell to 4-1, while Klein got the victory for the Indians.
“When you score seven runs you should be able to win,” Landkamer said. “This is the first time all year we haven’t played good defense, and you’re going to have games like that. But we’ll get better.”
For Loyola, Sellner led the hitting column with a 3-for-3 outing. Taylor finished the night 2 for 4, and Austin Ellingworth finished with two singles and three runs scored for the Crusaders.