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Millerville’s Billie Juul throws to first during Friday night’s game against the Bluedogs in Evansville. (Blaze Fugina/Echo Press)
Millerville’s Billie Juul throws to first during Friday night’s game against the Bluedogs in Evansville. (Blaze Fugina/Echo Press)

Bluedogs win first game versus Millers

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Brandon-Evansville showed why it has been one of the top Resorters West teams in recent years with an 8-2 victory over Millerville on Friday in Evansville.

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The game was the first between the two teams since Millerville was reinstated to the league, and Brandon-Evansville showed off its experience in jumping out early with six runs in the bottom of the first inning.

Shawn Krueger, Monte Hinzmann, Josh Meissner and Nate Meissner each picked up RBIs in the inning to help Brandon-Evansville grab an early lead.

“We jumped out to a 6-0 lead,” Nate Meissner said. “Whenever you can get on a team, especially a young team like Millerville ... that’s obviously going to benefit us.”

Nolan Bartholomew has been a reliable starter for the Millers this season, but he only lasted a little more than an inning last Friday while the Bluedogs scored six runs. His teammates said it appeared to be a rare off day for the pitcher and catcher.

“Once we buckled down and got comfortable we played good against them,” third baseman Dan Schaffer said. “I think everybody right away was a little nervous because we were a bunch of 18, 19, 20 year olds who are playing a bunch of 30 year olds, a lot of them who have played college baseball.”

On the other hand, the Bluedogs’ starter Krueger pitched eight innings against Millerville and only allowed two runs. The Millers added those runs on an RBI single by Aaron Lund in the fifth inning and another RBI single from Brandon Christianson in the seventh.

Krueger said his curveball, fastball and slider were all working well, and he was able to stay ahead in the count against most of the Millerville batters he faced.

“All of my stuff was working pretty well, just kind of mixing it up – curveball, slider, fastball, just kind of tried to keep them off balance,” Krueger said. “They were hitting it right off the end of the bat, jammed some of them, they got little bleeders.”

Millerville did pick up 13 hits in the game but could not convert the base runners into runs. One highlight for the Millers came in the seventh inning when Carlson robbed a home run in center field on a ball hit just over the wall by Chris Shea.

“I just ran back, hoping to catch it,” said Carlson, who scored both of the Millers’ runs. “The left fielder said it was gone, so I just jumped for it and that’s when I hit the fence and it ended up in my hand.”

With the game being the first for Millerville against Brandon-Evansville, it was a homecoming for some of the players. Nearly the entire Millerville lineup played high school baseball for Brandon-Evansville and a handful also were members of the Bluedogs in the past.

“We know most of the players,” Schaffer said. “I think we counted before there were six of us that used to play for the team.”

With some of their players coming from the Bluedogs, the Millers knew they were dealing with an experienced team on Friday.

“Brandon-Evansville is a good team, though,” Schaffer said. “They hit the ball hard, everybody up and down the lineup, and they have solid pitching.”

With some of these players leaving last year’s roster to play for the Millers, Brandon-Evansville’s roster has shrunk to its smallest number ever. The roster on the Bluedogs’ website currently lists 14 players.

“With this Millerville team starting up, we lost four of them,” Nate Meissner said about their roster. “One of the Bruns kids left to Portland, or somewhere out west, so we lost five kids right there. This is the thinnest we’ve ever been, so it forces us old guys to play the whole game.”

MILLERS STAY COMPETITIVE

The loss on Friday to Brandon-Evansville dropped the Millers to a 5-7 record this season.

After their first game of the season, the Millers said they were more focused on shaking the rust off after some of their players had taken a few seasons off from baseball. But they have shown the ability to stay competitive and keep their record near .500.

“For the first year in the league I think we are doing pretty well,” Schaffer said. “We had two or three games that easily could have gone our way, too. We’ve just got to get better at the end of ballgames.”

BLUEDOG STATE ASPIRATIONS

The Bluedogs have traditionally finished toward the top of the Resorters West Division, and this year it has been no different.

Brandon-Evansville’s record after last weekend was 6-2, which put them in a three-way battle for first with Urbank (8-2) and Osakis (5-2).

Last year, Brandon-Evansville finished first in the West with an 11-2 record. But they were unable to advance to the state tournament, something they hope to do this season.

“We come to play to go to the state tournament,” Nate Meissner said. “We don’t come to play just to win our league. Our number one goal is to get to the state tournament.”

The start of this season has not been perfect for the Bluedogs after a couple of close losses. They dropped a game 5-4 to Carlos on May 25, and on June 8 they were shutout by Urbank 3-0.

“Last weekend we played Urbank, and we just couldn’t put any hits together,” Krueger said. “We lost a couple of tough games; Carlos was another tough one. You learn from them and hopefully it will help us later in the year win some close games.”

With young teams like Millerville getting into the mix, the Bluedogs players figure they have one of the oldest teams in the league. But this has not discouraged them from setting their sights on a trip to state.

“This year it’s going to be tough,” Nate Meissner said. “We’re obviously getting older and Urbank has a nice team. Millerville is young here and Osakis has a nice team, too. So we’ve got to compete.”

GAME RESULTS

BRANDON-EV 600 110 00x – 8 11 0

MILLERVILLE 000 010 100 – 2 12 2

PITCHING – B-E – Shawn Krueger – 8IP, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 6SO; Nate Meissner – 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 1SO; MILLERVILLE – Nolan Bartholomew – 1.1IP, 6H, 6R, 5ER, 4BB, 0SO; Aaron Lund – 7.2IP, 6H, 2R, 1ER, 2SO, 1BB

OFFENSE – B-E – Nate Meissner – 3-4, RBI, 2 runs, BB; Lee Nelson – 1-5, 2B run; Shawn Krueger – 2-5, 2 runs, RBI, 2B; Travis Santjer – 1-3, BB; Jake Nohre – 0-1; Brent Meissner – 1-2, run, 2BB, HBP; Monte Hinzmann – 2-5, run, 2 RBIs; Chris Shea – 0-3, BB, run; Matt Bruns – 1-4; Josh Meissner – 1-4, RBI

MILLERVILLE – Zach Carlson – 2-5, 2 runs; Billie Juul – 2-5; Aaron Lund – 1-5, RBI; Brandon Christianson – 2-5, RBI; Dan Schaffer – 2-5; Craig Campbell – 3-4; Tom Bosek – 0-4; Trent Hintermeister – 0-2; James Huisman – 1-4; Brandt Bitzan – 2 BB

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Blaze Fugina is the sports editor at the Pierce County Herald. Before working at the Herald, Blaze was a sports reporter at the Alexandria Echo Press for one year and 10 months. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.
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