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Christian McGaffey fields a ball at short for the Chargers during their game against the Hancock Owls. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Chargers cool under pressure

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Chargers cool under pressure
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The Brandon-Evansville baseball team is in the midst of a memorable season, not only because of its 11 wins in 13 games after Tuesday night, but because of how those wins have come.

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The Chargers pushed their record to 6-1 in games decided by two runs or fewer with an 8-6 win over Hancock on Tuesday that left them 8-0 in the Pheasant Conference. Brandon-Evansville has found a way to win almost every close game this year, and it has this team sitting in the driver’s seat for a league title.

“I think part of that is the balance in the offense, where we don’t have to wait for the top four, five guys in our lineup to pick us up,” head coach Brian Perleberg said. “We can rely on those five through nine hitters to start a rally for us. These guys don’t appear very rattled in tight-game situations, which is obviously the characteristic that we want to carry with us as we go deeper into the season.”

The Chargers’ offense gave them an 8-0 lead to work with after four innings against the Owls. They scored four runs in the second to take a 5-0 lead as they sent nine men to the plate that frame. Brandon Christianson had an RBI single in the second and Robbie Juul added a two-RBI single that got the scoring started.

That was part of a big day for Christianson. The junior went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a double. Kevin Roers, Cody Lund and Patrick McGaffey all added two hits apiece. James Huisman had three walks and scored three times and freshman Jake Nohre reached base three times on two walks and a single to show off the depth that Perleberg was talking about.

“We just get in the batter’s box and do what we do,” Christianson said. “We step up to the plate with a good approach knowing that we can hit the ball, and we’re going to hit the ball.”

The Chargers needed all that offense after Hancock rallied through the late innings. The Owls scored three times in the fifth and three more in the sixth that were aided by two Brandon-Evansville errors.

Hancock then put the first two batters on base in the top of the seventh before pitcher Tom Bosek was summoned from the dugout.

Bosek hurt his hamstring last week and Perleberg didn’t want to use him unless he absolutely had to on Tuesday.

The junior re-strained his hamstring on the very first pitch he threw in the seventh. He fought through that, getting all three guys he faced to leave the tying run on second after a game-ending strikeout.

“Throughout my life, I’ve considered myself more of a closer,” Bosek said. “In Legion, I was a closer so I do better under pressure. I just pitch. Throw strikes and trust your defense.”

Bosek came off the field with a noticeable limp after the game. He has had to deal with injuries for much of the season after hurting his hand during the first couple weeks of spring.

“It was a very gutsy performance,” Perleberg said. “I think Tom kind of thrives in those situations. He loves to be center stage when the game is on the line, and obviously when he comes in and gets us saves like that, we love to have him there too.”

Bosek was the pitcher with the most experience coming into the season for Brandon-Evansville, and guys have stepped up around him with his innings being limited due to injury. Huisman started against Hancock and threw five strong innings, allowing just the three earned runs in the fifth. He got the win after giving up four hits and four walks, while striking out five.

“I think we’ve got four guys for sure that we can roll out any day and be comfortable with,” Perleberg said. “Really, you could argue that we have five guys. You look back at our schedule, we really haven’t had bad starts by the starting pitchers… I’m pleased because Brandon Christianson, James Huisman, Cody Lund and Robbie Juul, we can roll those guys out any day of the week and they’ll get it done.”

There are things that Perleberg would like to see cleaned up defensively, but the rotation and an offense that was averaging more than eight runs per game has this team sitting right where it wants to be.

“After last year, I was hoping and knew we were going to have a good season,” Christianson said. “My goal is state tournament. We still have to get that far.”

The Chargers are not only unbeaten against conference foes, but also against Section 6A opponents at 10-0. They have built up a lot of confidence heading into four conference games next week against Hancock, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, Hillcrest and Wheaton-Herman-Norcross to end the regular season.

“Right now, I think we’re trying to take it one game at a time,” Christianson said. “We’re going to win the next game coming up. We’re going to win the next game, and then we have four conference games next week and we’re going to go ahead and try to win all of them. I’m looking at the conference championship as it’s there. We just have to come up and put our foot on the throat and keep it there.”

GAME STATISTICS

HANCOCK 000 033 0 – 6 6 3

B-E 140 300 X – 8 10 2

B-E PITCHING – Huisman – W, 5IP, 4H, 3R, 3ER, 4BB, 5SO; Robbie Juul – 1IP, 2H, 3R, 0ER, 3BB, 1SO; Bosek – S, 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 1SO

B-E OFFENSE – Huisman – 3 BB, 3 runs, SB; Christian McGaffey – 1-3, BB, SB; Christianson – 2-3, Sac, 3 RBI, 1 run, 2B; Kevin Roers – 2-3, 2B, RBI, SB, 1 run; Kevin Campbell – 0-3, Sac, RBI; C. Lund – 2-4, RBI, 1 run; Nohre – 1-2, 2 BB, 1 run; P. McGaffey – 2-3; R. Juul – 1-2, 2 RBI, 1 run

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Eric Morken
Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
(320) 763-1229
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