Gettin’ dirty: Pipestone Area baseball team opens 2023 campaign with 4-2 non-conference victory over Adrian

Pipestone Area senior shortstop Merrick Heidebrink. K. Kyle

It wasn’t flawless, but it was about as good a start to the season as the Pipestone Area baseball team could have hoped for as the visiting Arrows (1-0) doubled up the Adrian Dragons 4-2 in non-conference action Monday evening in Adrian.

And outside of more looking strikeouts than he’d prefer, Pipestone Area skipper Ryan Koopman was quite pleased with the Arrows’ performance under clear, calm skies.

“Seven backwards Ks and we can’t have that,” he said. “I’d rather have you swing in the dirt or at your eyes than looking. So, we have to control our fate at the plate.

“Overall, yeah, two of three (things) were really good. The fielding was really good, the pitching was really good. I thought LJ (Landon Johnson) … first varsity start behind the dish (plate) was great…. don’t think anything got behind him. He called a good game, think I called just one pitch; he called a good game, played really well and both pitchers threw really well. Overall, 1-0 is as good as we can be, and we’re 1-0.”

While the Arrows’ sticks were slow to come across the plate, if at all, the PAS defense was stellar behind starting sophomore hurler Landon Quist (5 inn., 1ER, 4H, 2W, 5K 2HBP) and senior closer Kellen Johnson (2 inn., 1H, 0W, 3K, 1HBP). Not only did the Arrow garrison prove stout in making the routine plays, but several would-be hits were equally snared by the quick-acting, sure-gloved infield.

“It was the first time playing outside for a while; we get to be in the dirt, so… might as well get dirty,” noted senior shortstop Merrick Heidebrink, who anchored the PAS defense with a trio of outstanding diving/stretching putouts. “We went to a parking lot for a practice, and a grass field once, but this is the first time on the dirt. We played good defense… went well for us today.

“Defensively, we played as well as anyone could have expected. You’re going to have some hiccups at the first game, but I felt we came out here, stayed focused all seven innings and communicated well.”

Pipestone Area senior first baseman Connor Holt. K. Kyle

Which likely allowed Quist and Kellen Johnson to settle into their role after facing 1-2 batters.

“Our pitching did a good job of holding them off today,” Heidebrink added. “They gave up two runs, and one probably wasn’t earned, so they came out and did their job. They have a lot of trust in the defense behind them, so they attacked the strike zone and did a fantastic job.”

Adrian starter Quentin Wolf did a fine job against opposing batters, too, fanning one Arrow between outfield putouts in the top of the first. Wolf opened the second with the second of his four strikeouts over his three-inning tenure, but a slow-rolling infield single off the bat of Jackson Melcher paved the way for the Arrows first run of the tilt – coming on a two-out Texas Leaguer from Riley Bosma that fell in no-man’s land between the Dragons’ first baseman, second baseman and right fielder.

Wolf managed another strikeout to bring the Dragons back to the plate in the bottom of the second, but Quist fanned three of the four batters he faced in promptly putting the Arrows back in the box in the third.

Wolf walked the first two Arrows he faced, and despite Heidebrink getting picked off stealing second, Quist’s ensuing single through the left side of the Adrian defense set Melcher up to sacrifice the pitcher across the plate for a 2-0 PAS lead.

Adrian whittled the deficit down to a lone run in the bottom of the frame, as the hosts parlayed a one-out double off the bat of Wolf into a marker on Kyler Kunkel’s line drive up the middle. Quist and company shut the door, however, and the Dragons wouldn’t enjoy any more movement on their side of the scoreboard until the final frame.

Pipestone Area sophomore pitcher Landon Quist. K. Kyle

Meanwhile, the Arrows welcomed Dragon reliever Travis Weiss to the game with a pair of heavy drives to the outfield. The first, off the bat of Bosma, was mishandled in right field – allowing the PAS third baseman to claim the middle bag on the error. Bosma advanced to third on a dropped third strike that had to be thrown to first base for the putout, and strolled home moments later on Heidebrink’s sharp RBI single to centerfield for a 3-1 lead. Smart baserunning by the senior shortstop yielded the Arrows their final run as, after pilfering third, Heidebrink scampered home on a passed ball.

The PAS defense continued its strong performance no matter who was inserted into the fray. Substitute second baseman Weston Reinhard opened the bottom of the fourth making the first of two dazzling catches on line drives toward right-center field, and Kellen Johnson proved well-positioned to make wavering fly balls look routine in left field.

After giving up a leadoff hit in the bottom of the fifth, Quist yielded to Kellen Johnson in the sixth, but only after closing out his tenure with a pair of strikeouts. Johnson fanned two in his initial frame on the bump, but the Dragons managed to capitalize on a leadoff single up the middle in the seventh that cleared his glove by a fraction of an inch. An errant throw on an attempt to pick off the runner at third allowed Adrian to close out the game with a second maker – accounting for the final tally.

The Arrows will be back in action Tuesday evening when they travel to Luverne to face the Cardinals in Big South Conference play at Redbird Field.

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