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Tidied up by Knott

Raymond Rockets starting pitcher Jordan Smith worked a solid five innings but didn't figure in the decision in his team's 8-5 win over Brandon-Evansville in the first round of the Minnesota Class C Amateur Baseball Tournament on Saturday in Brownton.

BROWNTON - During a messy sixth inning, just when it seemed Raymond's 2011 amateur baseball season was coming apart, it was really all coming back together again.

Brandon-Evansville scratched together a five-run sixth to erase a two-run Raymond lead, but the Rockets rallied in kind in the seventh and tacked on a run in the ninth for an 8-5 win at Barney Tadsen Field in the first round of the Minnesota Class C State Amateur Baseball Tournament on Saturday.

Rockets pitcher Tyler Knott tidied up the whole affair with masterful relief work and Raymond is on to the second round to face Big Lake at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, in Glencoe.

"We don't get down if we're losing," said Knott, who allowed just one hit and struck out six in the final 3-1/3 innings. "In a close game, everybody's up in the dugout and it's all positive. We don't give up."

Through the first five innings, the only ones who looked like they were giving up were hitters trying to get traction against Rockets starter Jordan Smith and Brandon-Evansville draftee starter Jake Lund.

The Rockets managed an unearned run in the fourth inning, and in the fifth Mike Jeseritz singled in Justin Koenen, who had walked and stole a base, to put Raymond up 2-0.

But the bottom of the sixth got all kinds of goofy for the Rockets.

Brandon-Evansville's first two men reached and clean-up hitter Ryan Hendrickson crunched a shot off Smith to left. As he left the batters box, Hendrickson threw up his arms to celebrate a home run, but the ball landed at the base of the fence and just one run scored. Hendrickson stood at second, shaking his head and hoping to commiserate about his bad luck with Rockets shortstop Jason Meyer.

But Brandon-Evansville picked him up. The next batter, Monte Hinzman, bounced a ball up the middle that skipped between Meyer and Rockets second baseman Jordan Daugherty for a single that scored two and put B-E ahead 3-2.

B-E's Travis Santjer then perfectly executed a suicide squeeze bunt off Watkins draftee reliever Bruce Geislinger to bring in another run, and Josh Meissner singled in the fifth run. When B-E lead-off hitter Chris Shea reached on a full-swing bunt that traveled about 20 feet from the plate, it wasn't clear that the weirdness was over.

But Tyler Knott relieved Geislinger and B-E's funhouse baseball was over for the night.

"I was just trying to get us out of that inning," said Knott, who struck out Nate Meissner to end the B-E sixth.

It was the Rockets' turn to add to the craziness and pile on in the seventh.

Four hits, two batters hit by pitches, a run scored on a wild pitch, a Rocket getting forced out at home and Koenen driving in two runs before getting thrown out at second trying to stretch the single. No matter: the Rockets regained the lead, 7-5.

"A bunch of funny things happened that inning," said Raymond manager Butch Steen.

Brandon-Evansville didn't find much funny about the final three innings. Knott set down B-E's final eight hitters, including the last five on strike outs.

"You could just see it when (Knott) came in," Butch Steen said. "I was watching over there in (in B-E dugout) and it was like, 'Oh no, now we gotta face this guy?' "

"I had a good night," Knott said. "Once you get to this level, every team is on an equal playing field. It's about getting timely hits."

And maybe more timely pitching.

Rockets catcher Tyler Steen - as happened last year after the Rockets won in the first round - is done for the tournament. He returns this week to his "other" baseball job - and some book learnin', of course -- at North Dakota State. That means Knott will start against Big Lake and Smith will move from the mound to catch him.

"It's tough down here (at the state tournament)," Butch Steen said. "You just have to keep playing. You just never know."

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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