For the first six innings, it looked as if the Osakis Hawks Resorters League baseball team were going to have no problem picking up its ninth win of the summer.
The Hawks beat the Millerville Millers 5-3 on Sunday afternoon, but it wasn't easy. After holding a 3-0 lead through the first six innings, the Millers filled the bases with nobody out in the top of the seventh.
A hard hit ground ball up the middle of the field hit the umpire standing behind the mound. Osakis shortstop Lane Berberich picked up the loose ball and threw it to third base. The ruling on the field was the baserunner, Gaven Jacobson, was safe at third despite what looked like an easy force out.
"It was a weird play. I guess it was a dead ball and all the runners were safe," Osakis catcher Doug Zimmel said. "We didn't know what was going on but we didn't let it get to us. Derek (Waldvogel) did a nice job of getting out of the inning after that without too much damage."
Millerville would tie the game before the inning ended.
Jason Schueler ripped a hard-hit single with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. After a stolen base and a wild pitch, Schueler was able to score on an RBI sac fly from Zimmel. Osakis would add another insurance run in the bottom of the eighth to take home a two-run win at home.
"It's definitely a good win for us," Zimmel said. "I sent out the text to the guys earlier this week and immediately there were five or six responses saying they wouldn't be here this weekend. I had to ask a few guys who played with us last year if they would come and play today."
With only nine guys in the dugout on Sunday, Zimmel felt fortunate that the Hawks were able to get six shutout innings from Jeff Piekarski.
"That was huge, he really stepped up today," Zimmel said. "Jeff throws a lot of innings for us and he gave us exactly what we needed today."
One thing the Hawks have to their advantage is a guy who can come in and dominate the back end of a ball game. Waldvogel picked up the win on Sunday after closing out the last three innings. For the second straight weekend, he didn't give up an earned run.
"He's been so good for us and we are just lucky he said he can pitch this year," Zimmel said. "He has some shoulder problems. Last year he said that he couldn't pitch but he told me that he's able to throw a couple of innings a week. We will take what we can get out of him."
Osakis sits at the top of the Resorters League with a 9-1 record. With two games left in the regular season, the Hawks feel like they are playing their best baseball at the right time.
"We feel really good right now," Zimmel said. "Even on days like today where we didn't get a lot of offense, we put runs together when we needed it."
Millerville shows improvement
After Sunday's game, the Millers sit with a record of 2-7 but are starting to gain some confidence in the dugout.
"It's wasn't a good start to the summer for us," Brandon Christianson said. "We had a hard time getting guys to show up at the start of the year. Now I think we have guys that are committed to playing this out. I think we have more confidence now too. The hits are coming and we are getting good pitching. Now we just have to start putting it all together and eliminating mistakes."
After allowing two runs in the bottom of the first inning, it looked like it might be a short day for Nicholas Thorstad on the mound. However, he was able to allow just two more runs in his seven-plus innings of work.
"We shouldn't be losing games when we get starts like that," Christianson said. "He was great today. We just need to get more runs for him."
As the regular season winds down, the Millers believe they are capable of being more than just a two-win team.
"I think the guys in the dugout are getting more confident right now," Christianson said. "We know we can win games like we played today. (Osakis) is one of the best teams in the league and we can beat them. I think we could surprise some people in the next few weeks."