CLASS B ROUNDUP SATURDAY AT DELANO: Air Freight, St. Louis Park advance in pitcher’s duels

By Eric Kraushar

news@mnbaseball.org

When Northfield’s Thomas Meland laced what proved to be a harmless single with two outs in the fifth inning, Air Freight Unlimited pitcher Graham Laubscher muttered a few words of disgust. A punch of the glove as well. Laubscher wanted that one back.

The left-handed ace of Air Freight Unlimited, the 2021 Class A state champions, was close to perfection Saturday in the opening round of the Class B Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament.

Laubscher allowed just three base runners, facing two batters over the minimum, in a 2-0 shutout of Northfield. He finished with 12 strikeouts and no walks, allowing a second single to pinch hitter Gunnar Benson to start the ninth inning. A 5-4-3 double play ended any thought of the Knights rallying.

In fact, Northfield did not have a runner reach second base all game.

“When you’re locked into a pitcher’s duel, getting that first run is huge. You know you a little breathing room, but I think it actually makes you become a bit more locked in. You have to hit your spots; you can’t make mistakes out there. It really helps me stayed focused in a game,” Laubscher said.

Laubscher entered the tournament having thrown 49 innings this summer without surrendering a run, earned or unearned. This after he set a school record in five seasons at the University of St. Thomas for career strikeouts.

“It really comes down to where we are in the game. I don’t mind those longer strikeout innings early on, but as the game goes on, something like that 5-pitch inning, was really nice when you’re pitching that late in the game,” said Laubscher when asked about his preference for a three-up, three-down scenario — he had three straight strikeouts in the fourth inning and a five-pitch frame in the eighth inning.

While Laubscher was dominating for Air Freight, Northfield was just one swing away from tying the game for much of the contest. Fellow southpaw Cole Stanchina of Northfield scattered six hits with eight strikeouts. Until a seventh-inning, two-out run-scoring single from Air Freight’s Chuck Bartholomew, Stanchina hadn’t allowed an earned run.

Air Freight’s first run crossed home plate as the result of a first-inning error. Both Air Freight runs were scored by leadoff Matthew Enck, who was 2-for-3 with a double.

“The atmosphere here is so much different than anything we’ve seen in Class A. There are usually 30 people at a game. This field (Delano), how it’s kept up, it’s incredible to play on. This has been a great experience,” Laubscher said.

Air Freight Unlimited draws the Champlin LoGators and Minneapolis Angels winner in the second round on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 11 a.m.

ST. LOUIS PARK 2, YOUNG AMERICA 1

Last year’s Class A state champion, St. Louis Park, was outhit 9-4, but got outs when it needed them most, surviving a first-round match-up 2-1 over Young America on Saturday.

Chris Odegaard, the MVP in the Class A tournament a year ago, scattered seven hits, surrendering an unearned run with two strikeouts, in the win for the Pirates.

Mike Bohlke recorded the final eight outs, inducing a pop out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, to preserve the win in the save.

Young America threatened often but scratched across just a solo run in the seventh inning on an Alex Logelin RBI-single. A second runner was tagged out at home plate on a throw from left fielder Tony Manville.

Brayden Kohls (3-for-5) and Brice Panning (2-for-4) collected five of Young America’s nine hits in the 1-2 spot in the batting order.

St. Louis Park scored single runs in the fourth and sixth innings with Austin Ledin collecting both RBIs. Josh Lenz went the distance for Young America, finishing with seven strikeouts.

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