Baseball: Pitching, defense and hustle play from Kyle Mages help Osakis over Pillager
It's early, but the Silverstreaks have looked more competitive with a year of experience under the belt for a young nucleus that improved to 2-1 after a cleanly-played game against Pillager on Thursday.
The Osakis baseball team went through a rebuilding season in 2021 with many young players taking on key roles in the lineup and on the pitching staff.
A year later, the Silverstreaks believe their guys are ready to take another step in the process of being a winning team again.
Osakis won two games this week. The Silverstreaks beat St. John’s Prep in a 10-9 game on the road on Tuesday. On Thursday, they played clean in almost every facet on a cold and windy evening during the home opener in a 4-3 win over Pillager.
“We’ve been preaching about playing a full seven innings,” head coach Kendell Proell said. “Lately, we’ve been playing two, three innings and then a bad inning here, so playing good defense and pitching for a full seven innings is something we’ve been preaching all week. It’s good to see them put it all together.”
The Huskies (1-5) scored one run against sophomore reliever Mekai Hoelscher in the seventh inning. Cowen Cremers walked to lead off the inning. A wild pitch moved him to second before a couple of ground-ball outs brought him home.
Hoelscher settled down to end the game with a strikeout in the next at-bat. He got a three-inning save after allowing no hits and striking out two in his first outing of the year.
“He did a really good job of throwing his fastball, spotting it, so that was good to see,” Proell said of Hoelscher.
Seth Staloch got the start and the win after going four innings. The freshman righthander scattered three hits and four walks, but he struck out six to limit the damage to two runs.
“In the later innings, I kind of got a little bit stiff in the fingers, but I had a hand warmer in so that helped,” Staloch said of pitching in the cold. “We’re from Minnesota. We’re kind of used to it. Practicing outside the past couple days has been kind of cold and windy.”
Staloch’s most important inning came in the second frame. Pillager loaded the bases with a one-out double, walk and single. A hit batter drove in a run before Staloch got a strikeout for the second out. He was then called for a balk that drove in another run to tie the game at 2-2.
Staloch came right back and got a strikeout to end the inning. Osakis then took the lead back when senior Bauer Klimek singled in a run to make it 3-2 in the bottom of the second inning. It was Klimek's second hit in as many at-bats.
“We’re trying to at least get to .500 or more this year,” Staloch said after Osakis went 5-13 in 2021. “Win the games we didn’t win last year. Get out of situations like when I had bases loaded and got out of that jam. We didn’t get out of those last year. That was huge. I didn’t get out of many of those last year. I just kept walking guys and stuff, so it was a really good feeling to get a strikeout to get out of that.”
Staloch is part of a pitching staff that also features sophomore Ben Berger, who gained a lot of experience on the mound as a freshman last spring.
“Ben is our ace,” Staloch said. “Then it’s me, Grant (Mages), Kyle (Mages) and Mekai. Then Tyson Hagedon can pitch a little bit, and so can Wyatt (Sell).”
Staloch lauded the play of his defense. The only error Osakis committed came on a throw to first base from Staloch himself that he took full blame for.
“That was completely my fault,” he said. “It was a bad throw, but (the defense) played really well. Made some tough plays. Berger made some good plays at third.”
Proell also brought up Berger as a guy who impressed defensively. Berger was kept busy at third base and made a few plays where he had to show off his arm strength on throws across the diamond.
“Making routine plays routinely is huge,” Proell said. “Ben made a lot of good plays with a lot of long throws from third. The guys just looked like they were having fun. They weren’t thinking about it. They were just making plays, and that was huge. It was a good all-around defensive game. Probably the best one we’ve played this year and including last year too.”
Proell said some of the biggest improvement he has seen with this team is how guys have grown with age and work in the weight room.
“They’re a lot stronger,” he said. “You can tell they’ve hit the weight room preparing for the football season. That’s made them really good baseball players. We’re able to make those throws. Last year, we weren’t consistent getting them all the way to first base. Strength, and then just confidence. I think today pitching, our guys had confidence. Last year, if we walked two batters it led to worse things. It was good to see us overcome some of those things.”
Osakis jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning against Pillager when Klimek singled and later scored on a Grant Mages sacrifice fly. Brady Mages, a senior who joined baseball this season, then had an RBI-groundout.
The Silverstreaks were clinging to a 3-2 lead in the fifth when Kyle Mages added an insurance run with one swing and a lot of hustle. He hit a shallow fly ball to left field that got down for a hit.
Mages hustled out of the batter’s box for a double that forced a wild throw from left. It led to a two-bag error as Mages raced around third and scored standing up.
“That’s one thing about Kyle, he never stops,” Proell said. “He rounds the bases hard, and if he sees a window, he’s going. Against St. John’s two days ago, he scored the go-ahead run from third to home on a passed ball that really wasn’t that far. He saw it, went with his gut and made a good slide.”
Osakis is 2-1 now and its loss came in a 9-8 game at Sauk Centre on April 12. Proell said his primary goal coming off a 5-win season with a lot of the same players who are now a year older is to show they can be competitive every night out.
It’s only three games, but Proell is happy with how the Silverstreaks have done that so far.
“That’s the next step for them. I think they know it too,” Proell said. “They understand that as we have gotten stronger, we can do this. Then we added Brady Mages, a senior. Grant Mages, our second baseman, he was injured last year. Those are two kids who are pretty athletic that we’re adding to a pretty athletic team, so it’s good to see. It’s looking good. If we can figure out how to play together, play with confidence and put the bat on the ball and play good defense like tonight, that’s going to be the key to a good season.”