Finding runs in opportunistic spots has been a challenge for the Surrey Blue Sox all summer. Friday morning was no different.
Squaring off against Bismarck's Senior Babe Ruth outfit - the Senators - Surrey struggled at the plate again, eventually losing 12-2 in five innings at Corbett Field.
Already desperate to curb their recent trend of leaving runners on base, the Blue Sox stranded another eight on Friday, half of which were left standing in scoring position.
Senators leadoff batter Kale Ohlhauser reached base safely in each of his four plate appearances. He stole two bases and scored two of Bismarck’s first six runs in a 12-2 victory.
"(The Senators) got people in scoring position and drove them in. That's something we've been struggling with," Surrey coach Jeremy Feller said. "We can get them on base but we can't get them in to home, and that's an important part of the game that we're not able to accomplish right now."
Bismarck jumped on the Blue Sox early, scoring four in the first and another in the second to establish an early 5-0 advantage for Senators starter Jake Wetzel.
Leadoff batter Kale Ohlhauser got things started for Bismarck, drawing a four-pitch walk against Surrey starter John Reiten. After Ohlhauser stole second, a single from center fielder Colton Ford - which bounced from the glove of Surrey first baseman Jake Burckhard and into right field - put runners on the corners with no outs.
A five-pitch walk and a sacrifice fly later, Joel Thune's RBI double to the right center-field gap made it 2-0 for the Senators. The next at-bat doubled that lead through Hunter Beckert's two-run single to center.
"As a pitcher, it's nice when you go out and throw a zero in the first inning and your team spots you four," Bismarck coach Troy Olson said. "Sometimes it's not always easy to relax and throw strikes, but I thought Jake did very nice job of that."
The Blue Sox found an answer in the third after loading the bases against Wetzel with no outs. Burckhard and Jamie Baier provided RBI singles in the inning, but after Baier's base knock to right, the Bismarck starter found consecutive outs to end the threat.
A smiliar Surrey opportunity took shape in the fourth, as well. Following a leadoff out, Cole Zadereka and Jesse VerBruggen found themselves on base after back-to-back singles. Reiten then grounded into a 6-4 fielder's choice, moving Zadareka to third. But the next batter - Burckhard - couldn't bring him in. His subsequent grounder to short ended the inning.
"We've just gotta focus on our fundamentals," Feller said. "We have to find a way to manufacture runs and keep the game as simple as it is. When you overthink it and just don't make simple plays, it gets to be a long day. I'm hoping we can bounce back and be more competitive for the rest of the weekend."
As for the Senators, who don't have a set league in which they participate, tournament time is what they look forward to most.
And they want to keep winning.
"It's a good opportunity to simulate a state tournament atmosphere for us," Olson said. "We wanna win it, but we also want to get better."
Bismarck has just one game today, a 2:30 p.m. contest with Regina (Sask.) at Jack Hoeven Park. The Blue Sox battle another Bismarck squad - the Reps - at Jack Hoeven Park, with the first pitch scheduled for 9:30 this morning.
Joe Mellenbruch covers legion baseball and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.