By PATRICK SLACK
Upsala-Swanville Area (USA) was comfortably ahead late in Friday’s Sub-Section 5A West opener when senior Colten Kruzel sent a line drive up the middle.
Instead of having a chance to potentially end the inning, the ball ricocheted off the umpire near the second-base bag, split the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (BBE) middle infielders and bounced into center field, bringing home the Patriots’ final run.
It turned out to be that type of afternoon for USA, as the Patriots turned in a dominant complete-game effort to shut out BBE 6-0 and advance ahead to the sub-section semifinals.
Senior Brock Cichon was at the forefront of the winning effort, blanking the Jaguars on only two hits and one walk over six innings, striking out seven, before junior Eric Lampert came on to close out the game in the seventh.
The Patriots jumped on BBE for an early lead right away in the first.
Junior Christian Pekarek drew a walk, stole second and came in to score on a two-out single by senior Alec Griffith.
Griffith cleaned up the bases again after BBE control problems in the third.
Senior Eric Frieler and Pekarek drew consecutive walks before Griffith doubled them home to extend the USA advantage to 3-0.
BBE showed little sign of threatening to get back in the game after that, yet the Patriots poured on three more insurance runs in the fifth, as Cichon doubled home senior Nick Frieler, then Griffith and Kruzel delivered back-to-back RBI singles to put the game away for good.
Griffith finished 3-for-3 with four RBIs and Kruzel added two hits.
Pekarek drew three walks, stole two bases and scored twice.
Next up for third-seeded USA is the Sub-Section 5A West semifinals against second-seeded Browerville, Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Cold Spring.