April 14, 2011 at 9:11 a.m.
Division 1-bound senior Graig Weber allowed just two hits and struck out 13 as the Fridley Tigers beat the Wildcat baseball team 9-2 in the season opener last Thursday, April 7 at Fridley.
Trailing 1-0 going into the top of the third inning, the Wildcats mounted their only rally of the game. Danny Kimlinger walked, Kyle Buchanan lined the ball off Weber - the only ball the Wildcats hit hard all day - and Steve Ramberg singled to load the bases. Kimlinger scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 1-1, and the other runner moved up. The Fridley coach went out to talk to Weber and Wildcat head coach Pat Collins took Buchanan aside and gave him some instructions. Sure enough, Weber paid no attention to Buchanan on third and Buchanan got a huge lead. When Weber went into his windup, Buchanan took off for home. Wildcat assistant coach Jay Brown said "If the guy would have thrown a strike or at least kept the ball out of the dirt, they would have had him. But the ball short-hopped the catcher and Kyle slid in safely." Buchanan's steal of home gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead.
But the Wildcat lead didn't last long. Fridley scored two runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead and never looked back. Wildcat errors allowed the Tigers to stretch the lead to 6-2 as the game wore on. A monstrous three-run homer by Fridley in the bottom of the fifth put the game out of reach. Brown said, "The kid swung out of his shoes and really connected with that one. Our head coach, Pat Collins, said it was the longest home run he had ever seen in a high school game." And Collins has been coaching for a long time.
"Weber is a really tough leftie," said Brown. "He didn't have good command of his pitches, but he just overpowered our guys.
With the Wildcats missing several pitchers due to suspensions and injuries, Buchanan got the nod to start the opener. He went the first three innings and Hunter Lindstrom finished up. Both of them did okay, but got little defensive support as the Wildcats made six errors behind them. "We're not that young of a team," said Brown. "We have seven juniors and seven seniors, but most of them don't have much varsity experience. It will be nice to get Travis Ongstad and Tyler Rivard back in a couple of games."
Today at 4:30 p.m., the Wildcats will take on St. Louis Park at Dakota Park. Their home opener is Saturday at noon against Cloquet at Chisago Lakes High School. And Tuesday, April 19, the Wildcats will face their toughest test of the young season as they welcome the Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks to town. The Hawks feature three Division 1-level players and are the favorites to win the North Suburban Conference this season. The game will start at 4:30 p.m.