Pictured: Colin Richards, sporting the special yellow cap, twirls a fastball to the plate in an impressive ninth inning performance.
June 26 @ Spicer
Starbuck 9 New London 0
Starbuck began a busy weekend with a trip to Spicer to play New London. It would be the first of three games in three days for the Stars.
It didn’t take Starbuck long to get on the scoreboard as Michael Gruber led off the game with a single, advanced to second on a groundout and scored on Austin Ver Steeg’s double.
Up 1-0, the Stars added a run in the top of the third inning. Michael Gruber reached base on a single and eventually scored on Mike Kragenbring’s sacrifice fly.
With Starbuck up 2-0 after three innings, the game settled into a pitcher’s duel, with Starbuck starter Austin Ver Steeg and New London starter Austin Hadley each keeping their opponent from crossing home plate through eight innings.
Hadley ran in to trouble in the top of the ninth, but it wasn’t of his making. Jared Freese reached on an error and advanced to second when Dylan Jergenson reached on catcher’s interference. Mason Blair singled to load the bases and when Michael Gruber singled to score Freese, it spelled the end of the day for Hadley.
The New London reliever walked Matt Gruber, scoring Jergenson. Mason Blair scored on a wild pitch and Austin Ver Steeg walked to load the bases again. Mike Kragenbring cleared the bases with a blast over the left field wall. The grand slam homer would be the final touch on a seven-run inning and a 9-0 victory for the Stars.
Stars’ pitcher Austin Ver Steeg went the distance for the second time this season, giving up just a pair of singles early in the game en route to the shutout.
Michael and Matt Gruber each had three hits at the top of the Stars’ lineup, accounting for six of Starbuck’s 11 hits.
The win was the third straight to begin the 2020 season.
Stars 101 000 007 – 9 11 1
New London 000 000 000 – 0 2 5
HITTING – Starbuck:
Michael Gruber 3-5 r-3 rbi, Matt Gruber 3-4 2b r rbi, Austin Ver Steeg 1-3 2b r rbi, Mike Kragenbring 1-4 HR r rbi-5, Jared Freese 0-1 r, Parker Holtberg 1-3 2b, Dylan Jergenson 0-1 r, Grant Jensen 1-3, Mason Blair 1-1 r
Austin Ver Steeg (W) 9-2-0-0-3-8
June 27 @ Minnewaska
Moorhead 5 Starbuck 4
It was a special night on Saturday night at Marthaler Field. It was the first home game for the Stars after opening the season with three road games.
Colin Richards was in uniform for the Stars, and the team honored Colin by wearing a special yellow baseball cap with a “M” emblazoned on the front. The Moorhead team, which had a number of players from Concordia University that are Colin’s college teammates, also wore the yellow caps during the game. It was a special sight to see both teams honor Colin in that way.
The game began and the visiting Mudcats struck in the top of the first, getting a single and a homerun for a quick 2-0 lead.
The Stars answered in the bottom of the first when Matt Gruber doubled with one out and scored on Jackson Hendrickson’s two-out single.
Starting Starbuck pitcher Aaron Ver Steeg recorded two quick outs in the top of the second inning, but on an 0-2 count the Mudcats’ lead off batter launched a homer to right and Moorhead was back up, 3-1.
Ver Steeg threw two scoreless innings to wrap up his four-inning stint. The Stars closed the gap to one run in the bottom of the fourth when Mason Blair dumped a texas leaguer into left, scoring Austin Ver Steeg who had reached on an error and went to second after a walked batter.
Moorhead took advantage of three straight singles and scored twice in the top of the sixth off of the Stars’ Jared Freese, who had taken over the pitching duties in the fifth inning.
Down 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth, the Stars took advantage of a new pitcher in the game for the Mudcats. A hit batter and two walks loaded the bases with no outs. Austin Ver Steeg flared a one-out double into right field to plate two runs, pulling the Stars to within a run with two runners in scoring position. But the next two Starbuck batters were unable to get the tying run home and Starbuck went to the ninth inning down, 5-4.
Colin Richards took the hill in the top of the ninth to a big round of applause from the fans in attendance. The hard throwing right-hander, still in the midst of cancer treatments, proceeded to strike out the first batter, get a pop out from the second, then ended with a flourish, striking out the final batter. It was a special performance by a tough young man.
The Stars tried to make Colin the winning pitcher in the bottom of the ninth, getting the tying run to third and the winning run at first, but the fairy tale ending didn’t materialize when the third out was made.
Moorhead was rewarded for making the trip and participating in the festivities for Colin with a 5-4 win. Nevertheless, it was a special evening at the ball park.
Moorhead 210 002 000 – 5 9 2
Starbuck 100 100 020 – 4 6 1
HITTING – Starbuck:
Matt Gruber 1-4 2b r, Austin Ver Steeg 1-4 r rbi-2, Jackson Hendrickson 1-3 rbi, Mason Blair 1-4 rbi, Jared Freese 2-3, Connor Westberg 0-2 r, Torii Johnson 0-0 r
Aaron Ver Steeg (L) 4-4-3-3-2-2
Jared Freese 4-5-2-2-5-3
Colin Richards 1-0-0-0-0-2
June 28 @ Paynesville
Starbuck 4 Paynesville 3
The Stars played their third game of the weekend on Sunday afternoon, traveling to Paynesville.
Michael Gruber opened up the game reaching base on an error and eventually scoring on a two-out single by Mike Kragenbring.
Kragenbring would repeat the feat in the third inning, knocking in Austin Ver Steeg with a two-out single. Ver Steeg had reached base on a walk.
Paynesville knotted the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the third when Stars’ pitcher Matt Gruber gave up a bases loaded single with two outs that plated two runs.
The game remained tied at two until the top of the seventh inning. Starbuck drew three consecutive walks to open the frame. Austin Ver Steeg lifted a sacrifice fly to score Grant Jensen. A double play ended the inning on the next batter, but the Stars had pulled ahead, 3-2.
Aaron Ver Steeg led off the eighth inning pinch hitting for Mike Andreas. Veer Steeg hammered a triple to center field, then scored one out later on a single by Jackson Hendrickson.
Michael Gruber had relieved his younger brother, Matt, in the top of the seventh inning. Michael was now tasked with getting the final three outs in the ninth with the Stars holding a 4-2 lead. A leadoff walk followed by a single led to a run, but Michael was able to get a fly out with the tying run on first base, ending the game.
Mike Kragenbring had a pair of two-out RBI singles to pace the Stars’ offense. Matt Gruber pitched a solid six innings but didn’t get the decision.
Starbuck has two home games this week. On Wednesday the Stars host Chokio. On Friday Sunburg will visit Marthaler Field. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.
Starbuck 101 000 110 – 4 7 2
Paynesville 002 000 001 – 3 6 1
HITTING – Starbuck:
Michael Gruber 0-4 r, Austin Ver Steeg 0-3 r, Mike Kragenbring 2-5 rbi-2, Aaron Ver Steeg 1-1 3b r, Andrew Toop 1-3, Jackson Hendrickson 1-3 rbi, Dylan Jergenson 1-1, Grant Jensen 1-3 r
Matt Gruber 6-5-2-2-3-1
Michael Gruber (W) 3-1-1-1-5-1