WILLMAR - The Delano Tigers probably don't like Drey Dirksen too much after Monday.
Often the backstop for Willmar, Dirksen took off the catcher's mask and made his first career varsity start from the mound a memorable one, pitching six shutout innings with just one hit allowed and five strikeouts in a 2-0 win.
"Drey was good, he got ahead and he just kept attacking their hitters," said Willmar head coach Tom DeBoer. "When you're playing in this wind it doesn't matter how hard they square the ball up. It's not going to go anywhere. They hit a couple of balls hard but he just kept it easy out there. He threw strikes and mixed speeds and a bit and just kept them off balance."
And the game-winning run? Yeah, you can credit Dirksen with that, too.
Willmar tagged Cade Lommel, a Creighton University-commit, with just five hits and Dirksen came away with two of them, including the opening run of the game which came in the second inning when AJ Backes squibbed a ball in front of the catcher with the bases loaded and Dirksen scampered home to beat the throw.
"It's kind of a nice pick-me-up when you're on the mound if things aren't going good," Dirksen said. "
Lommel, who struck out five batters and allowed both runs (one earned) across five innings of work, battled out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts but Dirksen's run was good enough.
Caleb Owens, the designated hitter on Monday, started the bottom of the fifth inning with a leadoff walk and came around to score on an Andy Schultz single.
Centerfielder Jayden Dierenfeld also finished Monday with a pair of hits, using an open right side of the field to squeeze the ball past the Delano first baseman and put Dirksen in scoring position.
DeBoer admits he wasn't sure his star catcher was going to be able to go six innings on the mound but it should prove helpful in a week where the Cardinals will play four games in five days.
"We didn't really know what we were going to get out of Drey. I talked to [assistant coach] Patrick [Courtney] before the game and I said, 'Alright, we need to have a contingency plan in case this doesn't go well,'" DeBoer said with a laugh. "We had confidence but with the weather the way it was, it's tough to pitch in. And it's his first time pitching a real mound this year so it turned out great."
Dirksen fought to keep pitching into the fifth inning and after a five pitch fifth he got another shot in the sixth before giving way to Andrew Baumgart. Baumgart, a left-handed sophomore, pitched a clean seventh inning with an infield single and a strikeout to earn the save.
Willmar 2, Delano 0
Delano 000 000 0-0 2 2
Willmar 010 010 x-2 5 1
Hitting - Delano: Max Otto 1-3, Mike Weber 1-3 ... Willmar: Andy Schultz 1-3 rbi, Drey Dirksen 2-3 r, Jayden Dierenfeld 2-3, Caleb Owens 0-2 r bb, Jack Roehl 0-0 sb, AJ Backes 0-3 rbi
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Delano: Cade Lommel (L) 5-5-2-1-1-5, Dylan Hall 1-0-0-0-0-2 ... Willmar: Dirksen (W) 6-1-0-0-4-5, Andrew Baumgart (S) 1-1-0-0-0-1