Thunderbirds defeat Knights

SLEEPY EYE – Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop handed Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s its first loss of the season in a brutal 11-5 Tomahawk Conference game on Friday.

Six different players tallied multiple hits for the Thunderbirds (2-4, 2-4 Tomahawk), who amassed 15 hits overall.

“We’ve played some good baseball [so far], it just all came together today,” said GFW coach Jeff Seehafer.

After St. Mary’s starting pitcher Mike Hirsch gave up a two-run double to Alex Howe in the top of the first inning, the Knights (3-1, 3-1) tied the game 2-2 thanks to Tanner Buettner’s trouble finding the strike zone. Buettner walked four of the first five St. Mary’s batters, allowing RBIs from Jon Kopacek on a sac fly and Jared Beltz on a fielder’s choice.

However, a four-run fourth inning broke the game open for the Thunderbirds.

Jaden Katzenmeyer drove in Cody and Nolan Huiras with a two-run double before touching home from a first-pitch double to the right-center fence by Gustavo Munoz. Kolten Pingeon later drove in Munoz to give GFW a 6-2 lead.

Hirsch, who normally plays catcher for the Knights, had struck out Donte Niedecker and Buettner before giving up those four runs.

“[Hirsch] did get ahead of hitters early, but then he kind of left stuff up, gave up a couple of 0-2 base hits – you can’t do that and he knows that,” said St. Mary’s coach Bruce Woitas. “Overall, he’s going to have to pitch for us some this year, so it was good to get him out there a little bit and get that first exposure for the year.”

Hirsch returned to his familiar post behind the plate in favor of Elliot Braun, who gave up five earned runs on five hits in three innings of work.

Katzenmeyer and Howe notched four RBIs each for the Thunderbirds.

Katzenmeyer went 2-for-5, tallying a two-run double in the fourth inning before coming home and another two-run double in the fifth.

“Jaden has been putting the bat on the ball for us – he’s hitting a little over .300 before today,” Seehafer said. “We adjusted his hands a little bit in the cage a week ago and today it paid off.”

Howe went 3-for-4 with a two-run double in the first inning, a run scored in the fifth and a two-run home run in the sixth for the Thunderbirds’ final runs.

“We played our opening game here against Sleepy Eye public and [Howe] had a bases-cleared triple,” Seehafer said. “When he sits back and drives the ball to the right side of the field like he did today, then he can turn on that inside pitch and pull it. He’s a big, strong kid.”

Hirsch got the loss having given up six earned runs on 10 hits with no walks and three strikeouts.

Offensively, the Knights were able to muster up five runs, but were unable to get the hits when they needed to.

“We’ve just got to learn that we’ve got to come to the park ready to play baseball,” Woitas said. “I think GFW did that today – they had a lot of energy and it just seemed like we were a little bit flat for whatever reason.”

St. Mary’s plays Blue Earth Area in a nonconference road game at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. GFW hosts Comfrey/Cedar Mountain at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

G-F-W 200 432 0 – 11 15 1

St. Mary’s 200 210 0 – 5 4 0

Buettner, N Huiras (4) and Pingeon; Hirsch, Braun (5) and J Helget, Hirsch (5).

W – Buettner (G) 3 2/3 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 1 K, 7.63 ERA

L – Hirsch (S) 4 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 10.5 ERA

Leading hitters – G-F-W: Howe 3-4 4 RBI 2 R HR 2B, Pingeon 3-4 1 RBI 1 R, Katzenmeyer 2-5 4 RBI 1 R 2 2B, N Huiras 2-4 1 RBI 1 R, C Huiras 2-4 1 R; St. Mary’s: Hirsch 1-2 2 RBI 2 BB 2B, Kopacek 1-3 1 RBI 1 R 1 BB, Brandl 1-3 1 R 2B, Surprenant 0-2 2 R 2 BB.

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