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Esox rally to edge Midway in battle for first place

Park Rapids first baseman Zach Hocking waited for the throw as Midway's Stetson Burkman had to dive back to the bag on a pick-off attempt during Sunday's Lake and Pine League amatuer baseball game. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

A dramatic ninth-inning rally kept the Park Rapids Esox atop the Lake and Pine League amateur baseball standings.

David Dirks' two-out single scored Riley Massie with the winning run as the Esox edged Midway 3-2 Sunday afternoon at Park Rapids in a battle of two of the best teams in the league.

Midway led 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth inning when Zach Hocking led off by reaching on an error. Pinch-runner Sam Eystad advanced to third on two wild pitches before Massie walked. Another wild pitch plated Eystad with the tying run as Massie moved to second. With two outs, Dirks lined a single to left field as Massie scored the game-winning run.

This game for the top spot in the league standings featured a pitchers' duel between Midway's Zach Etter and Park Rapids' TJ Erickson.

Midway loaded the bases in the first inning on singles by Preston Riewer, Drew Rasmussen and Etter. A double play ended that threat as the Snurdbirds left three runners on base.

The Esox also threatened to score in the first when Massie led off with a single, Dirks was hit by a pitch with two outs and Tom Juberian walked. But Etter left the bases loaded.

After Cory Odland was left on base after doubling with two outs in the second, Etter singled and Chris Baso was hit by a pitch in the third, but Midway was held scoreless when another double play ended that threat.

The Snurdbirds took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Midway loaded the bases with one out when Stetson Burkman singled, Ray Mueller singled and Odland was hit by a pitch. Riewer's sacrifice fly scored Burkman before Erickson left two runners on base.

In the fifth, Midway threatened again when Etter walked to lead off the inning and advanced to third on a stolen base and wild pitch, but was left stranded.

Midway took a 2-0 lead in the sixth when Mueller walked and courtesy runner Alex White scored on Odland's sacrifice bunt, Rasmsusen's infield single and Etter's RBI single.

Park Rapids (which produced six other baserunners on Massie's lead-off single in the third, Juberian's one-out double in the fourth, Hocking's single and Massie's infield single in the fifth, and singles by Juberian and Austin Becker in the sixth) cut the gap to 2-1 in the seventh when Hocking led off with a single and courtesy runner Zach Eystad advanced to third on an infield single by Nick Jasmer and a wild pitch before scoring on Dave Mortensen's grounder.

Midway couldn't capitalize on a lead-off double by Chris Baso in the ninth as the Esox rallied for the win in the bottom of that inning.

Massie and Juberian had three hits apiece as the Esox finished with 10 hits. Park Rapids stranded 11 runners on base. Erickson went the distance, scattering 12 hits while allowing three walks and three hit batters. Erickson struck out four while leaving 14 Midway runners on base.

Etter (3 for 4), Rasmussen (2 for 5) and Mueller (2 for 3) led Midway's offensive attack. Etter pitched the first seven innings, allowing one run on eight hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Riewer took the loss in relief, giving up two unearned runs on two hits and one walk with two strikeouts.

The win lifted Park Rapids to 6-1 in league play and 7-2 overall. Midway fell to 4-2 in league games and 8-2 overall. Nimrod is 5-2 in the league standings.

Park Rapids travels to Staples for another league game Saturday morning at 9. Midway will play Parkers Prairie Friday night at 7:30 at Menahga and will travel to Nimrod for a league game Sunday afternoon at 1:30.