By Denny Weller
Special to The Free Press
Mankato Loyola’s bunting skills set up a seven-run, second-inning burst Thursday at Franklin Rogers Park as the Crusaders rolled to a 15-2, five-inning Valley Conference baseball win over St. Clair.
“We did a good job of executing our bunts,” Loyola coach John Landkamer said. “We moved some runners around that way, and then we got some timely hits.
“When you do that in baseball you’re probably going to be successful. Everybody’s defense is a little behind right now because of the weather, but I like how we’re swinging the bats.”
St. Clair starter Alex Anderson escaped a bases-loaded jam in the opening frame before the Cyclones (0-4) took a short-lived 2-0 lead in their second at-bat off junior right-hander Shane Sellner. Phillip Lonneman was hit by a pitch with one out, and Austin Nagel followed with a single into right field. Sellner then got a strikeout before an error and Tyler Drummer’s RBI single produced the runs.
“We knew coming into the game that we could hit the baseball so being down 2-0 wasn’t really a big deal for us,” Sellner said. “We have confidence our guys can come up with the big hit to get those guys in.
“I’ve pitched pretty well twice now so today was a good confidence-builder for me. I got ahead in the count for the most part. I threw a lot of strikes and just let them hit it so my defense could work.”
Loyola (5-1) sent 11 players to the plate in the bottom of the second as a hit batter and consecutive bunt singles from John Fink and Peller loaded the bases with no outs. Junior center fielder Carson Seifert drew a bases-load walk, and senior catcher Blake Matuska sliced a bases-clearing triple into the left-center field gap. Sellner then ripped a run-scoring single through the hole
Loyola expanded its lead to 13-2 by tallying six more runs in the bottom of the third. Peller’s liner into right field sparked things before two more bunt singles — Seifert and Matuska — juiced the bases again. Sellner drove in a run with an infield out while Reynolds’ soft liner into left field produced another and Peller’s two-run bouncer through the hole capped things.
“We pulled it together and got our bats going,” Peller said. “We didn’t really make any errors in the field, and that has been a big deal for us. We all have our good and bad days, but I’d have to say that was a heck of a day for me.”
Evan Ellingworth and senior first baseman Andrew Sweere delivered RBI base hits in the fourth to close out the scoring. Seifert, Matuska, Ellingworth and Sweere each collected two hits for the winners, who ended up with 14 hits. Ellingworth scored three runs while Seifert, Matuska and Sweere each crossed home plate twice.
Sellner, making only his second career start, allowed only four hits while fanning four, walking two and hitting a batter. Quinn Seys and Kalib Lehman also had hits for the Cyclones.
“Shane is still learning how to pitch, but he’s got good mound presence out there,” Landkamer said. “He’s very composed and is never in a hurry.”
Loyola hosts New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale Geneva today at Franklin Rogers Park, and the Cyclones are also in action with a home game against Maple River.