The Spooner Cardinals travelled to a pair of tough road venues and came away with two huge league victories, and in the process moved into first place at the midway point of the season.
Spooner 16, Osceola 6
Friday night saw the Cardinals travel to Oakey Park in Osceola for a showdown with a young Braves squad.
Traditionally, Osceola has had their way with Spooner in games played in Osceola because they have always been a non-league affair; meaning, Osceola might snag any non-roster player they want to come perform at home. Spooner’s closest game at Osceola was a 1-0 loss back in the 2012 WBA playoffs played in front of an estimated 400-500 fans.
Friday night was a time to turn the tide on the Braves. Spooner came out with three runs on two hits and three walks in the first inning to set the tone. Mark Nauertz got the start for the Cardinals and had a very rocky first inning of his own by allowing five runs on three hits and three walks. Nauertz had only given up two runs up to this point of the season. Fortunately, he settled in and dominated the Braves lineup over the next five innings before allowing one run in the seventh.
Cardinal hitters pounded out 12 hits on the night and benefitted from nine base on balls en route to a 16-6 win in seven innings. Spooner failed to score only in the third inning on the night and scored multiple runs in five of the seven innings.
Despite the rocky start, the Cardinals were able to shake off some rust and come back to take control of the game. Nauertz finished with seven innings pitched, seven strikeouts, seven walks and five hits. All six runs were earned.
Spooner 8, Hayward 7 (12)
It was a match-up of the top two teams in the Independent League on Saturday night in Hayward, and Spooner was looking to avenge a loss to the Hawks a few weeks earlier. The game surely didn’t disappoint the large and rowdy crowd.
Spooner knocked the Hayward ace out of the game after six innings by stretching a 7-2 comfortable lead. Unfortunately, the Hawks wouldn’t go down quietly and managed to chip away and tie the game in the ninth to force extra innings.
Unlike the previous night Spooner didn’t score in the first three innings and starter Jeremy Bloomquist was able to hold serve and keep the Hawks silent, as well.
The Cardinals struck first with a pair of runs in the fourth, and Hayward answered back with one. Spooner tacked on three runs in the fifth to take control of the game, highlighted by back to back doubles from Chad Patko and Sam Holden. Hayward managed a run-off, a leadoff single, and two walks in the sixth to end the game for Bloomquist.
The Cardinals added two more runs in the seventh to, seemingly, blow the game open. Bloomquist tossed six innings, struck out one, walked three, scattered five hits, and two earned runs.
Things got a little interesting from this point on. Patko came on to relieve Bloomquist on the mound and was definitely fired up. Hayward scored two in each of the seventh and eighth innings to get the score to 7-6 heading into the ninth. The leadoff man in the ninth singled and was bunted to second.
The next batter reached on a little dribbler past the outstretched glove of Spooner’s second baseman and the runner scored from second on a close play at the plate. Spooner escaped after Trevor Brimblecom came on to pitch and got the final two outs.
The Cardinals had several chances late in the game to score runs off Hawks relief pitchers but stranded nine runners over the eighth-12th innings. Hayward appeared to have a serious chance to win the game in the 11th inning when they loaded the bases with one out after an intentional walk. Brimblecom induced a ground ball to third and a popout to swing the momentum back to Spooner.
The Cardinals scored a run off a bases loaded two-out walk in the 12th off the third Hawks pitcher, but again left the bases loaded and the door cracked for Hayward. Fortunately, Brimblecom made quick work of the Hawks and escaped with a huge league victory and put the Cardinals back in first place.
It was a huge weekend for the Cardinals as they reached the halfway point of the league schedule. Despite knocking off some rust after a two-week hiatus, the wins came in places that have been historically tough to win at and gave the Cardinals control of the league heading into July. Spooner has only one road game remaining for the remainder of the season.
Spooner hosts Twin Ports at 1 p.m. on July 6, and plays at the Haugen Hornets at 1 p.m. on July 7. Tim Sears will play a concert following the game.
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