Riley Massie admitted he was a little apprehensive in his first plate appearance of the season.

“It was nerve-racking,” said Massie, who took a ball on the first pitch of the amateur baseball season for the Park Rapids Esox at Bluffton on Sunday, June 21. “There’s a lot of rust.”

The Esox showed plenty of rust in their season opener as the defending Region 14C champions coasted to an 18-1 victory. Bluffton led 4-1 after three innings before taking control by scoring nine runs in the fourth and five runs in the sixth.

Even with the lopsided loss, the game was a success as the Esox were able to return to the field for the first time this summer.

“It felt great to finally be back out there with the guys. A spring without baseball was no fun at all. I couldn't have imagined having a summer without it as well,” said Nick Jasmer, who started in left field and also is the head coach of the Menahga baseball team. “I believe it was important to get baseball back up and playing. Baseball can be a big outlet for a lot of people, including myself. It is a great chance to get out, enjoy the nice weather and have some fun. It was a great day to play ball.”

“It’s nice to be back,” said Massie, the lead-off hitter and starting center fielder. “Honestly, as more and more time passed, I thought there would be no season.”

“I honestly didn’t think we’d have baseball this summer,” said shortstop Jed Ryan. “It feels pretty good. It brings back a little bit of normalcy. It feels like summer.”

“It feels good to be back,” said starting second baseman Cody Schirmers. “It was a little dicey for a while whether we’d play or not this summer. It’s nice getting the boys back together.”

The Minnesota Baseball Association decided to permit amateur baseball teams to start playing games, as long as they receive permission from their home municipalities, schools and ballpark owners. The MBA has required teams to follow safety protocols and fans will need to practice social distancing. No concession stands will be open.

Among teams in the Lake & Pine League and Hi-10 League getting permission to open their ballparks are Midway, Wolf Lake, Nimrod, Bluffton, Deer Creek and Perham. High schools have not given permission to play games on their facilities, so Park Rapids is among those teams not playing home games as of yet.

After facing a 3-0 deficit after the first inning, the Esox got on the board in the top of the second inning. Nick Jasmer was Park Rapids’ first baserunner by drawing a walk with one out. A walk to Schirmers and a single by John Massie loaded the bases with two outs. Brendon Kruchowski’s RBI single made it 3-1.

That proved to be the only run for the Esox as five Bluffton pitchers combined on a three-hitter with 17 strikeouts. Clayton Gallus started and suffered the loss.

Jasmer, Riley Massie and the rest of the Esox are hoping to rebound from this loss and earn a top seed in the Lake & Pine League standings during this abbreviated season.

“I usually always try to have high expectations and I know that we are a team that can win,” said Jasmer. “Usually before we start games we are able to have several practices, but that wasn't the case this year with everything going on. With all that said, I am just really glad to have baseball back.”

“This is one of the youngest teams we’ve had. We have a lot of new faces,” said Riley Massie. “I think we’ll be competitive again. Hopefully we’ll finish in the top half of our league and make a run in the playoffs.”

Park Rapids will open Lake & Pine League play with a game at Wolf Lake on Sunday (June 28) at 1:30 p.m.

Midway drops pair

Nimrod scored two runs in both the third and fourth innings to spark a 5-2 Lake & Pine League win over Midway at Nimrod on June 21.

Drew Rasmssen and Chris Baso drove in Brett Dormanen and Preston Riewer to give the Snurdbirds a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Midway finished with seven hits with Baso going 3 for 5 with a double, Rasmussen going 2 for 5 and Dormanen going 2 for 4.

Stetson Burkman started and took the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) on seven hits and three walks with nine strikeouts over the first seven innings. Riewer walked three and allowed one hit and one run in the eighth.

The Snurdbirds opened the season with an exhibition game against Bluffton at Midway on June 14. Midway was held to three hits in an 18-2 seven-inning loss.

Alexander Jimenez’s two-run double in the seventh inning provided the only scoring for Midway. Sam Beck led the Snurdbirds with two hits, going 2 for 3 including a double. Cory Odland started and took the loss.

Four Midway pitchers combined to allow 12 hits, issue 13 walks and hit four batters against Bluffton. The Braves scored seven runs in the first inning, three runs in the third and four runs in the seventh to spark the win.