It was a pair of contrasting outcomes as the Park Rapids Esox concluded the regular season by splitting Lake and Pine League amateur baseball games.
Wolf Lake posted its first win of the season with a 13-3 victory over the Esox in seven innings on Saturday, July 31. The Esox rebounded with a 12-3 win over Sebeka at Park Rapids on Sunday, Aug. 1. That was a reversal of games on July 10-11 when Park Rapids defeated Wolf Lake 8-4 and Sebeka defeated the Esox 8-1.
In another Lake and Pine League game on Sunday, Nimrod edged Midway 11-9. Midway closed out the regular season with an 8-3 record in league games and an 11-5 overall mark.
Park Rapids earned the Lake and Pine’s No. 4 seed for the Region 14C playoffs by going 5-6 in league play and 6-9 overall. The Esox will open the playoffs against Verndale (the Lake and Pine’s No. 6 seed) at 7:30 p.m. at Deer Creek on Friday, Aug. 6. The winner advances to play Bluffton (the Hi 10 League’s No. 1 seed) at 4 p.m. at Deer Creek on Saturday, Aug. 7. The loser is eliminated.
In the other Region 14C opener, Wolf Lake (the Lake and Pine’s No. 5 seed) plays Perham (the Hi 10’s No. 4 seed) at 7:30 p.m. at Perham on Friday, Aug. 6. The winner advances to play Nimrod (the Lake and Pine’s No. 1 seed) at 4 p.m. at Perham on Saturday, Aug. 7. The loser is eliminated.
Midway (the Lake and Pine’s No. 2 seed) opens against Deer Creek (the No. 3 seed in the Hi 10 League) at 1 p.m. at Deer Creek on Saturday, Aug. 7. New York Mills (the Hi 10’s No. 2 seed) faces Sebeka (the Lake and Pine’s No. 3 seed) at 1 p.m. at Perham on Saturday, Aug. 7.
Region games continue on Sunday, Aug. 8. The Region 14C championship game is set for 4 p.m. at Perham on Saturday, Aug. 14.
Wolf Lake rolls
An eight-run first inning powered Wolf Lake past the Esox.
Park Rapids failed to score after loading the bases in the first inning. Jason Haas was hit by a pitch and Ty Karger walked. Both runners moved up when Haas advanced on a passed ball and Karger stole second base. Haas was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a grounder by Nick Jasmer before Kevin Murphy was hit by a pitch to reload the bases. Wolf Lake starter Derek Pihlaja coaxed a ground ball to end that threat.
The Wolf Pack responded by sending 13 batters to the plate in the bottom of that inning. Jack Pietila walked and Pihlaja singled to set up a two-run single by Thomas Litzau. After a single by Dylan Walsh, Matt Skoog lined an RBI single. An RBI double by Rij Koehnen, RBI singles by Pietila and Pihlaja, and three errors gave Wolf Lake an 8-0 advantage.
In the third, singles by Haas, Jasmer and Murphy produced a run as the Esox trailed 8-1.
Wolf Lake chased Park Rapids starter Isaiah Olson in the fourth as a single by Pihlaja, a walk to Litzau, an RBI single by Walsh, a walk to Skoog and an error made it 11-1.
Pietila doubled, advanced to third on Pihlaja’s single and scored on Walsh’s sacrifice fly as the Wolf Pack led 12-1 in the fifth.
In the sixth, a lead-off double by Zach Hocking, an error and Matt Johanning’s grounder led to a Park Rapids run before Haas led off with a walk, advanced to third on Ty Karger’s double, and scored on Hocking’s RBI single in the seventh to make it 12-3.
Wolf Lake ended this game early in the bottom of the seventh when Pihlaja was hit by a pitch with one out, Walsh walked with two outs and Skoog lined an RBI single.
Pihlaja (4 for 4), Pietila (2 for 4), Litzau (2 for 4) and Skoog (2 for 4) led a 13-hit attack as Wolf Lake improved to 1-7 in league games and 1-11 overall. Pihlaja went the distance, allowing three runs on seven hits, three walks and two hit batters while striking out six.
Olson gave up 11 runs on eight hits and four walks over 3-plus innings for the loss. Murphy finished up, allowing two runs on three hits with five strikeouts.
The Esox relied on a 15-hit attack to defeat Sebeka in the regular-season finale.
Park Rapids took a 1-0 lead in the first on a single by Haas, a walk to Clayton Gallus, a fielder’s choice by Karger and an error on a pick-off attempt.
After failing to capitalize on five walks by leaving two runners on base in the first and the bases loaded in the second, the Stingers claimed a 3-1 lead in the third on four more walks and a single by Levi Stevens off Karger.
A three-run bottom of the inning gave the Esox the lead for good. With two outs, Karger and TJ Erickson singled to set up an RBI double by Hocking. Erickson and Hocking scored when Jasmer’s fly ball to center field was dropped.
In the fourth, Riley Massie singled and advanced to third on a throwing error on Olson’s bunt. After Massie scored on a wild pitch and Haas walked, Olson scored on a throwing error when Haas stole second.
The Esox sealed the win by scoring four times in the fifth and twice in the sixth.
In the fifth, Riley Massie singled with two outs and Olson followed with a double. Massie scored on an error and Olson scored on Gallus’s RBI single. Two more errors gave the Esox a 10-3 advantage.
Park Rapids capped off the scoring in the sixth on singles by John Massie and Riley Massie and a two-run double by Olson.
Riley Massie (3 for 5), Olson (2 for 6), Gallus (2 for 5) and Hocking (2 for 5) led the offense for the Esox. Karger pitched the first four innings, allowing three runs on one hit and nine walks while striking out eight. Gallus gave up one hit and one walk with four strikeouts over four scoreless innings before Murphy took over and gave up one hit in the ninth.