Raider baseball wins nine straight MEC games
The Hastings baseball team was on a roll through the first half of May. They won nine Metro East Conference games in a row, from April 28 until Monday, May 22, when they lost to St. Thomas Academy in the last game of the regular season. The Raiders finished the season 11-9 overall and 11-5 in conference, which was good for second place behind Tartan. Seeding for section playoffs was Tuesday, May 23.
Over the course of a week, April 28 to May 5, Hastings won four games in a row against Hill-Murray, North St. Paul, Simley and Henry Sibley. The Raiders ran into a hiccup during their doubleheader against Woodbury and East Ridge at Jack Ruhr Field in Miesville, where they dropped both nonconference games. However, the next week they picked up where they left off in conference play.
Hastings went on to win five more MEC games in a row May 8-19. They beat South St. Paul 8-5 on the road May 8, routed Simley 11-1 at home May 10, edged eventual MEC champion Tartan 6-5 on the road May 12, beat Mahtomedi in a close game 3-1 at home May 18 after a week of rain and cold, and then traveled to Hill-Murray on May 13 where they won 5-3. However, they lost their last game of the regular season at St. Thomas Academy 4-1.
Against South St. Paul junior Doug Nordine pitched 6 2/3 innings to earn the win, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and four walks to go with three strikeouts. Junior Cory Wolters got the save. Senior Cody Leflay led the Raiders with three hits, including a home run, and two RBI. Fellow senior Logan Radke also had two RBI on two hits.
Hastings knocked off Tartan in an extra-innings thriller. With the game tied at five going into the 10th inning, Radke was able to win the game for the Raiders with the game-winning RBI. Hastings blanked the Titans in the bottom of the inning to win 6-5.
Senior Mat Nicklay pitched eight innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on 12 hits, had no walks and struck out six. Nordine relieved and threw two innings of shutout baseball, only giving up one hit and recording two strikeouts to record the win. Senior Clay Harris led Hastings with two hits, while six others had one hit each, and junior Cody Lewison, Leflay, senior Jake Brake and Radke all had RBIs.
Hastings beat Mahtomedi in a close game where each team knew runs would be scarce. The Raiders struck first by scoring in the bottom of the first inning when Harris walked and scored on an RBI double by Lewison. They added a second run the next inning when senior catcher Cole Benson led off with a double, advanced to third and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Radke.
Mahtomedi scored their only run in the fourth inning, but Hastings was able to give themselves an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Benson once again led off, this time getting on with a single. The Zephyr catcher threw over to first, but the ball sailed and Benson advanced to second. Radke grounded out and when Benson advanced to third the Mahtomedi first baseman made another throwing error allowing Benson to score.
Brake pitched a complete game and got the win, throwing seven innings and allowing just one run on eight hits and a hit batsman, but also struck out seven batters. Lewison, Benson and junior third baseman Mike Quinn all had two hits to lead the Raiders, as well as an RBI each. Benson also had two runs scored.
End of the regular season
Hastings once again won in the final inning, this time against Hill-Murray on Friday, May 19. The Raiders and Pioneers were tied going into the top of the seventh inning when Hastings was able to score two runs in the frame and hold on to win 5-3.
Nicklay got the win once again, throwing a complete game and allowing just three runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out nine. Harris, Leflay, Nicklay, Benson and sophomore Drew Davis all had two hits, Davis led with two RBI.
Hastings went into their final game of the season at St. Thomas Academy with a nine-game MEC winning streak and second place in the conference wrapped up. The Raiders fell to the Cadets 4-1 and managed just four hits. Nordine drew the loss, throwing six innings and giving up four runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out two. Most of the damage was done in the sixth inning when Nordine gave up a two-run home run to Patrick Walsch.
Nicklay had two of Hastings' four hits, with the other two coming from Harris and Lewison.
Head coach Taylor Pagel said his team needs to keep playing like they have been lately as they head into section playoffs.
"They're doing it already, preventing free bases, keeping the game small, keeping them where they're supposed to be," Pagel said. "Just continuing to play good ball and they've got to continue to hit. We knew the hitting would come around, but we need to keep doing it."
Hastings will play its first section playoff game later this week.