By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
With only one week left in the regular season, St. Michael-Albertville baseball head coach Paul Schumm is still searching for answers.
Prior to Tuesday’s showdown at Buffalo (results not available); the Knights were on the outside looking in when it came to the Mississippi 8 conference standings. As of Monday, STMA was in fourth place with a 4-4 record. Buffalo, Big Lake and Rogers were all tied for the top spot at 5-2.
At times this season the Knights have shown flashes of the team that won the conference title a year ago. A 12-4 win on April 26 against the Bison and a 3-1 road win on May 6 over Rogers can attest.
The Rogers win came on the heels of a pair of victories at the Alexandria Invite. It marked its longest win streak of the season at three games. But just when things looked to fall in place, STMA was swept in a pivotal doubleheader 3-2 and 5-3 on May 7 at Big Lake.
Senior pitcher Jacob Dzubay suffered the loss in the opening 3-2 loss to the Hornets. Despite pitching six solid innings, Dzubay was victim once again to failed run support as the Knights ace fell to 2-3 overall for the season.
“He’s had some tough luck big time this year,” Schumm said. “He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any game he’s pitched and he still has a losing record.”
Schumm added that with only five games remaining until sections, he has total confidence in both his team and his starting pitcher. “With Dzubay on the mound, he can beat anybody in the state at anytime,” he said.
After suffering a minor setback against Big Lake, STMA had a rare day off to prepare for its second doubleheader of the week with a pair at Monticello.
Even the new name-plated gold uniforms with blue trim couldn’t get the Knights out of their hitting funk. Senior pitcher Tyler Dallum started and went six innings. Dallum pitched four shutout innings and took a 1-0 lead into the fifth. The Magic scored three runs in the fifth and broke it open with two more in the sixth and added an insurance run in their final at bat to win game one 6-2.
The Magic carried their momentum into the nightcap. Monticello staked starting pitcher Tanner Eckhart to an early 3-0 lead. STMA junior pitcher Brandon Rankila would pitch a scoreless third and fourth innings, but again the Knights bats were silent.
“It’s been a struggle for us to get one run on the board,” Schumm said. “We’re not tying the hits together to score more runs. We really feel we have the team to do that, but we’re waiting for someone to kind of step up.”
Monticello threatened to sweep the doubleheader after adding two more runs in the fifth inning to open up a 5-0 lead. With the Knights threatening to drop their fourth game in a row, STMA would mount its most timely and biggest rally of the season with a six-run outburst in the top of the seventh. Dallum led the way with two hits and two RBI’s and despite blowing the save, sophomore pitcher Jordan Joseph pitched the final two innings in relief to earn the 8-7 win, as the Knights scored the eventual winning run in the eighth inning.
“We put the ball in play,” said Schumm on his team finally breaking out offensively. “Once we got some guys on, (Monticello) helped our cause as they started to throw wild pitches and hit batters and started to walk some guys. But those things happen when guys put the ball in play.”
The Knights (7-6 overall) get a stiff test this Thursday with a doubleheader starting at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. against Champlin Park at Noble Park in Brooklyn Park. The Rebels came into Monday with a 10-2 record and play in the always difficult Northwest Suburban Conference.