It hasn’t technically been impossible for opponents to score off of Jake Nelson.
But it just about has, as the Holdingford senior ran his scoreless innings streak to 18, the latter six coming in a 3-0 shutout in game two of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Pierz to gain a split.
The Pioneers won 3-0 in the opener.
Nelson scattered six hits in the shutout, improving his record to 5-0 and lowering his ERA to 0.36. He now has allowed only two earned runs over 38 2/3 innings on the spring.
“Against Pierz he did not have his best stuff, but was able to battle and get outs when he needed them,” Holdingford head coach Jason Bruns said. “I think the team knows that when Jake is on the mound they are going to get a lot of action in the field and know that Jake will keep us in the ball game and give us a good chance to win.”
Senior Mitch Messman doubled and drove in two runs for the Huskers, with seniors Cody Bialka and Mitch Merten each picking up a hit and a run.
Freshman Matt Kummet went 2-for-3 with a double and senior Mac Gruber also doubled for Pierz.
In the first game, it was Pierz junior Cody Meyer dominating on the mound, tossing a two-hitter without issuing a walk.
Sophomore Noah Boser doubled and scored, sophomore Aaron Weber and Gruber each knocked in a run and freshman Lane Girtz singled, stole a base and scored.
Junior Nathan Brinker and Messman collected the Huskers’ two hits.
Huskers sweep Maple Lake in pair of one-run contests
Holdingford squeaked past Maple Lake in a pair of one-run games 6-5 and 1-0, May 9, with the finale going 10 innings.
In the opening game, Holdingford bolted to a 5-0 lead in the first inning as seven of the first eight batters reached.
Maple Lake put together a five-spot of its own in the top of the third to tie it, but the Huskers answered immediately with what proved to be the winning run on a bases-loaded walk by Jeremy Springer in the bottom of the inning.
Senior Jordan Gombos went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI, while Nelson and Merten each picked up a hit, run and RBI.
Junior Austin Gerads threw three scoreless innings to earn the win in relief.
The second game remained scoreless through nine innings, but not for a lack of chances on both sides.
The Huskers put a runner in scoring position in seven of the frames, while Maple Lake had a runner forced out and tagged out at the plate.
In the top of the 10th, the Huskers finally broke through, as Springer, who finished with three hits, singled, stole second and came in to score on a two-out single by Merten.
Nelson was spectacular on the mound, going all 10 innings in a seven-hit shutout without issuing a walk and striking out three.
“It was one of the best pitching performances I have witnessed at the high school level,” Bruns said. “In those 10 innings he had seven innings of 10 pitches or less.
“Jake has really improved his location of his fastball and off-speed pitches,” he said. “His strength is getting ahead of hitters and not walking batters. In the 10-inning performance against Maple Lake, he did not walk a batter. This also helps him keep a low pitch count. Against Maple Lake, he threw 83 pitches in the 10 innings. This is also the most pitches he has thrown in a game this year.”
Brinker also collected three hits, one of which was a double, while Merten had two hits and Bialka doubled.
The Huskers now sit at 7-4 in the Central Minnesota Conference, with a trio of teams just a game ahead of them at 8-3 with three conference games left.
“I am pleased with the team performance this year,” Bruns said. “We had a stretch this year where we dropped three of four games and did not play good, smart baseball. We have responded well and won five of our last six and are playing good fundamental baseball. With nine games in nine days we have to.”
Rockets stave off comeback bid to sweep Pioneers
Rockford Area fought off a big rally in the opener, then rode a strong pitching performance in the second contest to sweep visiting Pierz 7-6 and 4-0, May 9.
Pierz trailed 6-2 after four innings in the first game before rallying to tie it with a four-spot in the top of the fifth, only for the Rockets to take the lead right back in the bottom of the inning.
Meyer went 2-for-2 with a double, two runs and an RBI and Girtz went 2-for-4 with a double and a run.
Boser added a double and Kummet knocked in a run.
In the second game, sophomore Nick Herold, Meyer, Boser and Girtz had hits for Pierz.