Superb pitching lifts Rangers to 3-1
Dominant pitching has been the theme for Forest Lake early on in the baseball season. The Rangers lost their season opener 1-0 last Monday, but bounced back with three home wins later in the week. In those three victories combined, Forest Lake pitchers allowed just one run and 12 hits.
“We’ve given up one earned run in four games, so they have definitely even exceeded my expectations,” said coach Tal Gravelle.
Most recently, the Rangers moved to 3-1 with a 3-0 shutout of Duluth Denfeld on Saturday. Senior Lucas Kohls allowed just three hits in 5.1 innings, and senior Matt Hultgren slammed the door by getting the final five outs.
Junior Jack Schmidt produced a pinch-hit RBI single. Senior CJ Franklin went 1-2 with two runs scored, a walk and a stolen base.
The night before, Forest Lake trailed 1-0 into the sixth inning against Hastings. Junior Dylan Dresel led off the sixth with a double and Franklin followed with a bunt single.
After a throwing error allowed one run to come in, junior Beau Fandel plated a second with a single. Schmidt added another insurance run with a suicide squeeze bunt for a base hit.
Fandel also picked up the win. He allowed one earned run, struck out eight and walked none in a complete-game effort.
Forest Lake’s first win of the season came last Wednesday in a nailbiter against Woodbury. Dresel and Franklin opened the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles, and a passed ball and a balk put them on second and third base with no outs. Fandel knocked in Dresel with a groundout to make it 1-0, but Royal starter Brandon Mazur escaped further damage and settled down as the game went along.
Meanwhile, Ranger junior Trent Rabel was in control on the mound. The left-hander allowed only two hitters to reach base over five innings and struck out seven. Hultgren struck out the side in the sixth.
In the seventh, Woodbury’s lead-off man reached on an error and took second on a balk call that Gravelle disputed. Hultgren caught the next two Royals looking. The baserunner reached third on a passed ball, but Hultgren induced a ground ball and Dresel made up for his earlier error with a clean pick and throw to end the game.
Through four games, Ranger pitchers have recorded 33 strikeouts and have allowed only 14 hits and three walks. Gravelle also notes that 73 percent of total pitches have been strikes and 74 percent of first-pitch calls have been strikes.
Conversely, Forest Lake is hitting .180 so far. A new Minnesota State High School League rule restricting the most powerful bats may be playing a role in the decreased offensive numbers.
“It’s definitely been a factor in our games, but part of it is if you pitch well and throw strikes, it’s hard to string together four or five hits,” Gravelle said.
The game scheduled for Monday in White Bear Lake was postponed one day. Forest Lake hosts East Ridge this Wednesday. The squad travels to Mounds View on Friday and Stillwater next Monday.