Baseball is back in Minnesota.
After a late start by nearly two months, the Hutchinson Huskies town ball team played its first games of the year this past Saturday with a doubleheader in Jordan.
Ironically, Hutchinson’s first game of the year was against the same team it played its final game against last year — the Jordan Brewers, who beat the Huskies in the Class C state championship.
It was a good showing for the Huskies in their opening day as they tied with Jordan 5-5 after 11 innings, and then went on to beat the Bird Island Bullfrogs 3-1. While tying the defending state champion and earning the first win of the year is fun, all that really mattered to Hutchinson’s players was that they were finally playing baseball.
“I told the guys before we started to just go out and enjoy it and have fun,” Huskies manager Mike Kutter said. “The hits and all that stuff is going to come later. The pitching, the defense, I'm more worried about that. We just got to be able to come out here and find our legs a little bit, and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
Hutchinson’s first game was originally scheduled for May 8, but with COVID-19, the season opener was continually pushed back, leaving teams around the state in limbo. Even though the prospects of not having a season looked grim at times, players still showed up to practice, hit the cages, worked on grounders and fly balls, and pitchers worked on the mound to stay ready.
“We've been training and practicing, getting ready for this moment,” pitcher Jeremiah Van De Steeg said. “It felt weird to finally get back out there. It felt like I've never pitched before. After I got back in the rhythm, it felt like baseball.”
Van De Steeg didn’t seem rusty on the mound, holding the Brewers scoreless through five innings and allowing just one hit. But his sentiment could be felt by both teams in this game as eight of the 10 runs were scored in just two innings. Both teams ambushed each other, the Huskies scored three of their runs in the fourth inning and the Brewers scored all five of their runs in the sixth.
But just like staying ready during quarantine, they Hutchinson kept grinding away in the seventh to tie the game.
For the players, sometimes it was hard to stay motivated while waiting to play. But the Huskies kept their heads down and continued working, and now they’re ready to play ball.
“It was always disappointing when coach, it seemed like he was kicking a can down the road,” Dan Van De Steeg said. “You always try and be ready, but sometimes when you don't know when you're going to play, it's kind of hard to be motivated. Just trying to stay together with your teammates, grind together, do whatever you can together to keep that motivation.”
Now begins a monthlong stretch of baseball for the Huskies before league playoffs begin early August. Baseball season is finally here, and that's a good thing for everyone.
“We have a condensed schedule and things are going to happen fast,” Kutter said. “We just got to be ready whenever we can and (the play) will come, it's just going to take time.”
Hutchinson Huskies 5, Jordan Brewers 5
Hutch .... 010 300 100 00 - 5
Jordan ... 000 005 000 00 – 5
Batting: J Fleck 0-2, 1R, 1BB, 1HBP; C Arlt 1-3, 1BB, 1RBI, 2SF; M Piechowski 2-5 13B, 1BB; D VanDeSteeg 1-4 2RBI, 1SB, 1BB, 1HBP; N Corrow 0-5 1BB; L Glaser 2-5 2R, 1HBP; B Zackrison 2-6 13B, 12B, 1RBI; M Reiner 1-4 1R, 1HBP; M Kurth 0-5 1R, J Kraft 0-0
Pitching: Jeremiah VanDeSteeg 5IP-2H-3BB-1HBP-8K; Kyle Messner 4IP-5R-1ER-6H-4BB; Daniel VanDeSteeg 2IP-1H-4BB-1K
Hutchinson Huskies 3, Bird Island Bullfrogs 1
Hutchinson ... 100 020 0 – 3
Bird Island ... 000 100 0 – 1
Batting: J Fleck 0-2, 1BB, R; C Arlt 1-1, RBI, BB; M Piechowski 0-2; D VanDeSteeg 1-3, 2RBI; B Zackrison 0-3; L Glaser 2-3; N Corrow 0-3; M Reiner 0-3; C Marquardt 0-2, BB, R
Pitching: Jacob Kraft 6IP-1R-0ER-5H-2BB-3K; Mitchell Kurth 1IP-1H