TRACY - When a pitching staff allows just one run on five hits in a game, it's usually considered a pretty good day on the mound.
The Murray County Central baseball team's pitching staff gave up one run on five hits, but it wasn't in one game. It was throughout a dominant four-game week in which the Rebels totally shut down the opposition.
MCC senior Chris Halbur capped off the week Friday with a strong start against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. He worked his way around four walks and two hit batters to shut out the Panthers over six-plus innings of work. He gave up just one hit in the game and struck out three batters. Ryan Erickson came on in the seventh inning, faced three batters and got three outs to put the wraps on a 4-0 non-conference win for the Rebels, who improve to 6-1 overall.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Murray County Central senior Chris Halbur throws a pitch in the first inning of Friday’s non-conference game against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in Tracy. Halbur picked up the win on the mound, giving up just one hit in 6-plus innings of work.
The Rebels' big week started on Monday with a 9-0 win over Edgerton/Southwest Minnesota Christian in which Sam Erickson and Ryan Erickson combined to toss a one-hit shutout. Tuesday, MCC's Austin Christensen no-hit Southwestern United in a 7-0 Rebel victory. Thursday, the Rebels were unable to get a hit against Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Grove, but walks and errors by their opponent and a complete-game, three-hit performance by Sam Erickson helped MCC escape with a 3-1 win.
Friday, the Rebels continued to show the depth of their pitching staff with Halbur's stingy effort.
"We knew coming into the season that pitching was going to be a real strength. We have four or five guys who can throw and throw well," MCC head coach Tarry Boelter said.
MCC011 020 0-4 10 0
TMB000 000 0-0 1 2
MCC-Chris Halbur, Ryan Erickson (7). TMB-Reed Salmon, Jordan Lanoue (6). WP-Halbur. LP-Salmon. 2B: MCC-Halbur, Trent Carlson.
Halbur's outing was especially encouraging for Boelter to see. The big 6-foot-3 senior had surgery to repair a torn labrum as a sophomore and, after seeing limited action on the mound last season, is continuing to round into form.
"I was really happy for Chris because he had arm surgery a couple years ago and I think he kind of found himself today," Boelter said. "He really pitched a nice ball game.
"I think he's still holding back a little bit, but I think the more he pitches, the more confidence he'll get."
Halbur also led the Rebels offensively, going 3-for-4 with a double. Ryan Erickson added a pair of base hits and scored a run.
MCC finished with 10 hits on the day against TMB starter Reed Salmon, who worked the first five innings, and reliever Jordan Lanoue, who pitched the final two. The Rebels also drew five walks and got on base twice due to a pair of TMB errors. And when they got on, the Rebels were a terror on the base paths, piling on seven stolen bases.
TMB head coach Bill Tauer said the Panthers struggled to deal with MCC's speed, along with the 25-30 mile per hour sustained winds blowing in from the outfield.
"This is our fourth game this week so our catcher's arm was a little tired," said Tauer, whose team drops to 5-4 overall. "Then having to throw into that wind doesn't help either. They have good team speed and they have good athletes and they run well.
"We've got to get our pitchers to speed up a bit. I think a lot of it was they were stealing off of the pitcher and not always off the catcher. We'll work on that and try to make sure those things don't happen on the road."
MCC got its first run in the second inning. Ryan Erickson led off with a base hit, then stole second base. After a walk to Mitchell Reinsma, Nate Wieneke came up with a two-out infield hit which allowed Erickson to score just before Reinsma was picked off rounding second base for the third out of the innings.
Rebel center fielder Austin Kluis singled to start the third inning and stole second, scoring after a single by Halbur and a double by catcher Trent Carlson. The Rebels added two more runs in the fifth on three hits and two walks.
One of TMB's best chances to score came in the second inning, during which Halbur surrendered three walks. JC DeWitte drew a walk to open the inning, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Braden Peterson, then stole third base. He tried to score on a suicide squeeze, but Austin Peterson was unable to make contact on a bunt attempt and DeWitte was tagged out by Carlson.
DeWitte picked up the Panthers' lone hit in the fourth inning, poking a shot through the left side of the infield.
Friday's meeting was a rematch of last year's Section 3A championship, which was won by a senior-laden Panthers team that took third at the Class A state tournament. Last year's MCC squad was full of juniors and sophomores, so the situations of the two teams are somewhat reversed this season now that the Rebels have all the experience and the Panthers are still trying to figure some things out.
Tauer said the inexperienced Panthers are working on gaining confidence at the plate and have been relying on a lot of small ball to score runs this season. But he said he likes how his team has been progressing in other aspects of the game.
"We've had a lot of games like this," Tauer said. "Our pitching has been pretty decent lately. We're cutting down on our walks. Our defense has picked it up a bit. We're not letting teams have extra bases, so we're in ball games. We're just one play or two plays from being in ball games."
MCC returns to Red Rock Conference play on Tuesday with a game against Adrian in Slayton. TMB resumes Camden Conference action Monday against Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in Tyler.