By Pat Beck, St. Peter Herald
After a slow start this season, the Le Sueur Braves are moving up in the River Valley League.
The Braves have won two their last three games, including a 5-4 win over host St. Peter on Sunday at Veterans Field, to move into a tie for fourth in the RVL with Henderson at 4-5. Jordan leads at 9-1, followed by Belle Plaine 7-3 and Gaylord 5-3.
Le Sueur (5-10 overall) combined good hitting with good pitching and good fielding to beat St Peter (6-6, 2-3).
The Braves banged out 13 hits, compared to seven for the Saints. Except for two errors in the eighth inning that allowed two unearned runs, the Braves played flawless in the field, led by a number of sparkling plays by former Saint, third baseman Alex Klug.
Klug ran down a pair of foul balls and caught them with his back to the infield, and he stabbed a couple of tough grounders and threw out the runners at first.
“They were flashy plays,” Le Sueur manager Ryan McPartland said. “He had one high hop and one sliding hopper that he picked up. He did real good tracking the foul balls with help from our bullpen. We had solid defense for the most part. We kicked it around a little bit at the end, but overall we put ourselves in a good spot. St. Peter has gotten the best of us the last couple of years, but it’s normally a back and forth over the years.”
Le Sueur starting pitcher Brandon Culbert threw the first five innings to earn the victory. He didn’t allow a run on three hits, three walks and one strikeout.
Jordan Sinell pitched the last four for the save. He gave up four runs (two earned) on four hits, four walks and one strikeout.
“Pitching was mostly good,” McPartland said. “Brandon Culbert was a little bit tight to start the game. He’s got a little hammy he’s nursing, but he got through five, and we were able to throw our second starter, Jordan Sinell, so I’m pretty happy with the pitching.”
St. Peter pitcher Jesse Anderson went the distance for the fifth time this seeason, allowing five earned runs on 13 hits, no walks and four strikeouts in nine innings.
“We came out hitting the ball, which is a lot different than our last couple of times out,” McPartland said. “We’re putting the ball in play. I’m very happy with that.”
The Braves opened the scoring with two runs in the fourth inning. Klug led off with a double to left center. Culbert grounded into a fielders’ choice in which Klug got caught in a rundown between second and third. Jordan Carlson singled to right to put runners on first and third, and Mike May hit a two-RBI double to left to drive in Culbert and Carlson.
Le Sueur upped its lead to 3-0 in the sixth. Culbert led off with a double to right center, and Nic Haller singled in pinch runner Shane Sinell with a single.
The Braves made it 4-0 with a run in the eighth. Klug doubled to center. Jordan Sinell sacrifice bunted him to third, and he scored on an RBI single to right by Carlson.
St. Peter finally got on the scoreboard with two unearned runs in the eighth to half the Braves’ lead to 4-2. CJ Siewert and Sam Carlson reached on errors and went to second and third on a passed ball, and Jeff Menk drove them both home with a single to center.
The Braves answered with a run in the ninth to up their lead to 5-2. Brent O’Connell was hit a by a pitch, left fielder Jason Suderman sacrifice bunted him to second, and he scored on an RBI single by Ryan McPartland.
St. Peter finished off the scoring with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to cut the lead to 5-4. Tyson Sowder reached on an infield hit, Shea Roehrkasse singled, Sowder went third on a sacrifice fly by Austin Pinke, Roehrkasse stole second, and both scored on an infield hit by Siewert.
Four Braves had two hits. Klug went 2 for 5 with two doubles and a run scored. Culbert batted 2 for 3 with a double and two runs. May batted 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs.
The Braves’ six other batters each had a hit: Sunderman (1-4), Matt McPartland (1-5), Ryan McPartland (1-5, RBI), Haller (1-4, RBI) and O’Connell (1-3, run).
Seven different players had a hit for St. Peter: Sowder (1-5, run), Hanson (1-5), Roehrkasse (1-4, run), Siewert (1-3, 2 RBIs), Carlson (1-3, run), Menk (1-1, 2 RBIs) and Hunter Wilmes (1-3, double).