Legion baseball: 39ers gain win over Purple Hawks in 12-inning marathon

North St. Paul Legion’s Jace Piepgras (17) steals second base safely against Hamline Purple. The 39’ers won 7-6 in 12 innings at Kuenkel Field June 10. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Steve Orme (13) scores the winning run for the North St. Paul 39’ers in the 12th inning after a wild pitch. After six innings without a score, North St. Paul beat Hamline 7-6 June 10. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

The Hamline Post 418 American Legion Purple Hawks baseball nine came to North St. Paul to do battle with the Post 39 North St. Paul 39ers June 10 at Kuenkel Field.

What seemed to be a comfortable 6-0 lead for the locals was slowly whittled away by the Purple Hawks until it diminished in the top of the sixth inning.

Though there were good chances to score by both teams, neither was able to muster a run until a 12th-inning wild pitch allowed the 39ers to gain the victory.

When it was mentioned to Purple Hawks head coach Matt Johnson that it was a tough way to lose a ball game, he smiled and said, “I don’t know, it was a good ball game. It is always fun to come here and play North St. Paul. They are a competitive team. I’m happy with our play. It was a well-pitched game. We gave up those six runs in the second and had an error and some misplays, but overall it was a good effort on our part. We came back and fought hard to get to where we able to take it to extra innings. I’m happy with our effort.”

“I had a feeling that something funny like that would happen to make the difference in the game,” smiled North St. Paul veteran manager Ron Adams. “We sat on those six runs far too long. We had some chances, but didn’t produce any more runs. You can’t do that against a good team like them. We created several chances for them and they took advantage. But in the end we survived and that’s what counts. We’ll take the win.”

In the lower second inning, the 39ers sent 10 batters to the plate and saw six of the return.

Brendon Herold led off the inning and slashed a triple to the right centerfield gap. Tom Mulvaney cracked a sacrifice fly to centerfield. Jack Murnane worked a walk. Bram Minser then walked and Corky Hildebrandt hit into a fielder’s chance as Minser was erased at second. A throwing error allowed Hildebrandt to score.

Sam Blees singled to left and Joe Messerole beat out a slow roller to the right side and Hildebrandt came home leaving runners at the corners. The pair then worked a double steal with Blees sliding in safely at home.

Steve Orme bounced a single up the middle and Messerole scored. Designated hitter Sam Farley slashed a shot down the left field line to plate Orme to push the 39ers’ total to 6-0.

In the top of the third, the Purple Hawks picked up a run on three North St. Paul errors, a hit batter and a sac fly to short right field by Joe Decker that scored Nick Reis.

In the first of the fifth Jack Winger was nicked by a pitch. He went to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on an infield out. Winger then scored on a passed ball to close the gap to 6-2.

In the top of the fifth, the Purple Hawks brought the count to level with four runs. Reis led off with a single to right center. John Bird worked a walk in front of a RBi single off the bat of Winger that plated Reis. 

The 39ers changed pitchers and Joe Decker belted a shot to plate Bird. Cole Gnetz was out on a roller to the left side as Winger flew home. Gunner McClellan then beat out an infield roller and Decker scored to push the count to even at 6-6.

The score remained deadlocked until the bottom of the 12th. Messerole worked a one-out walk. Orme smacked a single into left  the first North St. Paul hit since the seventh inning  that was followed by an intentional walk to load the bases.

It looked like the strategy would work for the Purple Hawks when a shot to second was turned into a force at home for out number two. But then came the wild pitch that allowed Orme to slide safely across the plate with the 7-6 North St. Paul winning run.

Next up, the Purple Hawks will meet the rival Hamline Post 418 Hylanders June 22, 6 p.m., at their home field at the Cretin-Derham Hall baseball field. They then take to the road to meet Tri-City Red June 24, in an 8 p.m. contest scheduled for Municipal Stadium.

The 39ers, at Kuenkel Field, will play double-header games June 18, 6 p.m., against the Hamline Hylanders, and at 8:15 p.m. against the Hamline Purple Hawks. June 20-22 they will participate in the 39th Annual Grand Rapids Invitational. They return home to face White Bear Lake June 24 on the road.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at wwakefield@lillienews.com.


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