ST. CLOUD — The sun was shining and the temperatures hit 90 degrees as ROCORI and Tech played the first game of a doubleheader Saturday.
That heat transferred into the bats as both teams played a game of “anything you can do I can do better.” The two teams exchanged runs and hits until ROCORI had the final say and the Spartans picked up the 15-6 win at Tech High School.
“It’s fun to see everyone hitting and runs coming across,” said ROCORI’s Jack Spanier. “Our confidence is up and we want to be playing our best ball now heading into sections.”
ROCORI scored first as Connor Clark hit an RBI groundout to score Jayden Philippi in the top of the first. That lead expanded to 5-0 after the second inning.
The inning started with a walk from Cole Fuchs, a double from Tanner Rausch, an RBI single from Cam Miller and an RBI double from Carter Thelen.
Philippi and Spanier added on with RBI’s as well in the second, but Tech came right back with an answer.
“I thought Brady [Blattner] pitched well, but I was impressed by Tech’s bats,” said ROCORI head coach Jeff Illies. “They had some key at-bats that kept this game close.”
Noah Westphal put the first run on the board for the Tigers with a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the second. Then, Tech came back with three runs in the third inning.
Brady Kenning got on base and Matt Friesen knocked him in with an RBI double. Then, Blake Kilanowski recorded a sacrifice fly to bring in Friesen for the second run. Finally, Jaxon Kenning singled to bring in Lincoln Benson.
All of a sudden, ROCORI was up 5-4 and the game was close once again. The Spartans responded with two runs in the top of the fourth as Spanier had an RBI groundout and Brady Linn hit a sacrifice fly to make it a 7-4 game.
“We know that anyone can get a hit in this lineup,” Spanier said. “Every at-bat is a battle.”
Tech came right back with a run in the bottom of the fourth as Benson knocked in Brady Kenning on single.
In the fifth inning, ROCORI had a huge inning that brought all the confidence and momentum onto its side. The Spartans put up five runs and made it a 12-5 lead with only two innings left.
Miller started the inning with an RBI single followed up by a sacrifice fly by Spanier. Then, Blattner and Clark each recorded RBI’s to conclude the inning.
“We did a nice job with two-strike hitting,” Illies said. “That five-run fifth inning was big for us and gave us all the momentum to finish out the game.”
Tech scored one more run in the bottom of the sixth, while ROCORI tacked on three more runs in the seventh to make it a 15-6 final score.
The Spartans had this type of run production on Thursday night in the win against Sartell. Illies said he just wants everyone to improve each game and makes steps to becoming a little bit better.
He’s been able to see that improvement over the last couple of weeks, which is key as ROCORI gears up for the section tournament in about a week.
“We created a new motto for the rest of the season,” Illies said. “That’s being fearless. We want the players to be fearless when they step on the field and continue to improve each game.”
The Spartans will have one more game against Tech to complete the doubleheader. After the first game, ROCORI is sitting at 12-6 on the season while Tech dropped to 5-14.
ROCORI has two more games next week after this second game on Saturday. The Spartans hit the road to New Ulm at 5 p.m. Monday before coming home to play Rogers at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Tech is done with the regular season on Saturday after the doubleheader. The Tigers will wait a week before finding out its placement in the section tournament.
Right now, the Tigers are sixth out of eight teams in Section 5AAA, according to Minnesota Scores’ QRF standings. Tech could jump to fifth with a win in the second game on Saturday since the Tigers beat Becker, who’s fifth, earlier in the regular season.
As for ROCORI, the Spartans are sitting in fourth out of six teams in Section 8AAA. ROCORI is neck-and-neck with Detroit Lakes, who’s third, and a win for the Spartans during the regular season might help them push up to third in the section placement.
All of these section placements will happen next Saturday and the first round of the section tournament will begin on Tuesday, June 1.
“Anyone can win this section tournament,” Illies said. “We just have to continue focusing on our bats, our fielding and our pitching this week.”
Brian Mozey is the high school sports reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Reach him at 320-255-8772 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @BrianMozey.