MANKATO — Noah Bruggeman's nifty relief performance Friday night allowed Mankato American Post 11 to erase an early five-run deficit and coast to an 18-6 South Central Legion win over Mankato National at Wolverton Field.
Bruggeman struck out three and walked five while allowing no hits over six innings of work in Game 1 of a doubleheader.
American did it again in the second contest, as Jackson Keller ripped three hits and scored two runs in a 7-4 come-from-behind victory.
"I just wanted to throw strikes and get outs so we could get back in the dugout and put some runs up on the board," Bruggeman said. "I had good control of my fastball. My curve ball wasn't working at the beginning, but I got that under control and started getting strikes with it. We have the ability to hit the ball around. We just have to be patient and wait for strikes."
National took advantage of three walks and a hit batter in the top of the second to strike for five runs after Ben Anderson's RBI double plated a run an inning earlier. Nate Phinney smacked a two-run double in the surge, while Ben Hopper added a run-scoring base hit and Anderson lofted a sacrifice fly.
"They're a good-hitting team. We saw that in the spring, and it should transition into the summer," National coach Jamie Mulvihill said. "We've got basically a whole new team this summer so it's going to take some time. We've got three schools mixed together, so we're trying to get everybody acquainted so we can get that team chemistry built up again. ... They don't have any quit in them so that's good to see."
American began to chip away when right fielder Logan Hermer's two-run, third-inning single closed the margin to 6-3 before RBI singles from left fielder Kawika Hashimoto and Hermer made it 6-5 after four frames. Third baseman Ryan Kuechle's two-run triple in the bottom of the fifth ignited a seven-run burst, which was followed by back-to-back three-run innings.
"We didn't hit it too well yesterday, but today was a new day and we put the bat on the ball," Kuechle said. "Guys were having good at bats, and that was nice to see. We we're being more aggressive after being kind of passive yesterday. We were attacking the baseball, and that goes a long way."
Hashimoto ended up 4 for 6 with a trio of runs scored. Five players — Kuechle, second baseman Travis Noren, catcher Isaac Turner and the Hermer brothers, Grant and Logan — banged out two hits apiece. Grant Hermer scored four runs, and Turner crossed home plate three times.
"(Bruggeman) came in and put up a lot of zeroes by working out of some tough situations," Hashimoto said. "He kept us in the game until our offense started to light things up. We have the potential to win every game we play; we just have to believe in ourselves."
While it wasn't a sharp beginning for the Americans, coach Adam Hanson sure liked the finish.
"We didn't get off to the best start, but Noah came in and kept it close for us until we had a couple of big innings," he said. "Things didn't go our way yesterday against New Ulm, but our bats really came around in the second game and it carried over to today. We have a lot of pitching depth, and it's coming into play already. There's a lot of guys back so we're more of a veteran team."
Noren went six innings to gain the victory in Game 2. He allowed four runs on eight hits while striking out three and walking three before Jaedan Kenward struck out two in working a 1-2-3 to pick up the save. Turner laced a pair of hits and drove in two runs for the winners. Three National players — Hopper, Ben Maes and Owen Casteel — collected two hits apiece.
National (0-3) plays a 6 p.m. doubleheader Monday at New Ulm Gold, and American (2-2) hosts Hutchinson Tuesday.