Hill-Murray shakes Tartan to advance in section baseball

During the regular season, the Tartan Titans towered over the Hill-Murray Pioneers. But now, in the "second season" of sectional baseball playoffs, the Pioneers extracted revenge.

On June 3 at Municipal Stadium in the "losers bracket" of Section 4AAA, Hill-Murray found the right application to cure any ills the Titans disposed on them during the season.

The recipe consisted of pitching, hitting and defense. The Pioneers got all three and it resulted in a 6-0 whitewash of the Titans.

More importantly, the victory advanced the Pioneers and sidelined Tartan. The defending Section 4AAA Titans ended their season — they lost seven one-run games — with a mark 13-11.

On the mound for the Pioneers was Charles Bruchu. In the 6 1/3 innings in which he saw action, the sophomore twirler allowed just four hits and was never in serious trouble until he was relieved with one out in the top of the seventh inning.

When that occurred, Brendan Johnsen came to his aid. With one out and the sacks filled with Titans, Johnsen tossed five pitches and recorded the final two outs — both on pop fouls — which Hill-Murray catcher Brady Field ran down.

On the hitting side of the ledger, Hill-Murray first sacker Lincoln Hughes stepped up. He combined a second inning single with a two-run home run that sailed over the left field barrier. Hughes, a junior, scored twice and had a pair of RBI.

In the field, Hill-Murray committed two errors that Bruchu was able to null with the four strikeouts he put on the board.

"Finally," smiled Hill-Murray mentor Bill Lechner, "we were able to beat them."

Lechner referred to the four — two last year and two this year — regular season games in which Tartan had posted wins over the Pioneers.

"Our kid (Bruchu) threw well for us. He did all right for a sophomore — don’t you think so? He threw strikes and controlled the game. We got a few breaks and were able to take advantage of them with some timely hits. Our defense played well. Overall, it was a good game for us."

On the Tartan side of the ledger, the Titans played with somewhat less enthusiasm than was normal.

The day before, the Titans were informed that their top hitter and arguably best outfielder, Eric Schulz, would not be with the team because of a hockey tryout — somewhere.

"The whole tone of the team was down," stated Tartan coach Curt Russell. "We didn’t make the plays early. We were just kind of going through the motions. Our pitcher (sophomore Tom Doran) threw well enough to keep us in the game, we just didn’t play well behind him. Hill-Murray’s a good team and did what they had to do."

Hill-Murray put a run on the board in the lower half of the first when Sean McCarty led off and got on base the hard way by being hit with a pitch. He stole second. When a ground ball was bobbled, he moved to third. A throwing error — in an attempt to nail him at third — sailed down the line and McCarty trotted home.

With Bruchu in control on the mound, it would prove to be the game-winner.

In the bottom of the second, Hughes picked up the first of his two hits, a single to right center. A fly out later, designated hitter Bryant Skarda worked a walk. Kyle Ryan moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt. A slow hopper to the right side off the bat of Sean McCarty saw Hughes race home with the 2-0 tally.

In the third, Hill-Murray added two more. Field knocked a one-out single up the middle. A pop-up later, Hughes took a pitch to his liking and slammed it 328 feet over the fence in left to run the count to 4-0.

With two outs in the fourth, McCarty pummeled a shot to the left centerfield fence for a double. Bruchu stepped in and helped his cause with a knock into left center that allowed McCarty to score his second run of the game. Bruchu moved to second on a passed ball.

Derek McCallum stepped in and picked up a RBI with a shot to left center. Bruchu sailed home and the count mounted to the final 6-0.

Hill-Murray moved on in Section 4AAA play with the next contest coming June 6 against Champlin Park, who defeated Stillwater 4-2.

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