By JOHN McBRIDE
Seventh-ranked (1A) Bishop Garrigan put a stranglehold on the North Central Conference baseball race with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over No. 2 (2A) St. Edmond at Harlan Rogers Friday night.
The Golden Bears beat St. Edmond for the second time this season, running their NCC mark to 11-1 and moved to 23-6 for the season.
St. Edmond fell to 16-6 overall and 7-4 in the conference with only a small handful of league games left.
Garrigan ace Austin Vaske, an Iowa Central recruit, scattered seven hits and worked out of several jams, including leaving a Gael runner on third base in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Bishop Garrigan 2,
St. Edmond 1
Garrigan 000 020 0 - 2 5 0
St. Edmond 010 000 0 - 1 7 3
Austin Vaske and Alex Boisjolie. Neil Flattery and Matt Bocken. WP- Vaske. PB- Boisjolie. 2B- Garrigan: Zach Keith; SE: Nick Clark, Aaron Charlstrom. SB- Garrigan: John Burns, Vaske, Keith, Ben Vaske; SE: Nick Clark. Sac- Garrigan: Keith. DP- Garrigan.
Neither team strung together more than two hits in the same inning. In fact, the Golden Bears had no more than a single hit in any frame. But the Garrigan defense was the difference in the game, coming up with a couple big plays.
"You should really be talking to the kids, they made all the plays," said Garrigan coach Rob Meister. "Our defense was really sharp. This was just two good teams. I have a lot of respect for their program."
Gael coach Joe Shanks was disappointed in the loss, but hoped his team put things in perspective with five games left in the regular season.
"Hopefully it's something for us to learn from. I'm sure we'll be in this position again; hopefully we'll know how to respond. It's a disappointment, they are a rival and we want to win, but we have to put things in perspective and learn some things from it."
Vaske fanned six batters while walking two runners. He took advantage of solid defense behind him and even got in on the act with a sliding catch of a foul ball just in front of the Garrigan dugout.
"We out-hit them, which is good to see, but they made the plays when they had to make them," said Shanks. "(Vaske) is hard to score runs on. We had opportunities, but didn't get things done."
Neil Flattery was the tough-luck loser. He gave up just five hits, but the Gaels committed three errors behind him, including a big one in the fifth when the Golden Bears scored both their runs.
After forcing a runner at second base for the first out of the fifth, the Gaels got another ground ball, but couldn't get the lead runner at second after a bad throw. Garrigan shortstop Zach Keith then drove a double to deep center, scoring Reece Wadle and courtesy runner Adam Hamilton with the tying and go-ahead runs.
Garrigan had other chances to score early and late. The Golden Bears left a runner at third in the second inning and left Keith at third in the fifth. They also stranded a runner at second in the seventh.
St. Edmond manufactured its lone run in the bottom of the second. Nate Kolacia legged out a lead-off bunt single, and then moved to third on a wild pitch and passed ball. He scored on a single by Aaron Charlstrom.
Vaske then got a strikeout and SE catcher Matt Bocken line hard to short and into to a double play to end the frame.
The Gaels also missed out on several chances to score, the biggest in the third when Flattery was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on a double by Nick Clark.
The Gaels left Clark at third in that frame and left pinch-runner Sam Kolacia on third in the bottom of the seventh. Clark was also stranded at third in the bottom of the first after he singled and stole a pair of bases.
Vaske finished with a pair of hits for Garrigan. Flattery, Clark and Chalstrom each had two hits for the Gaels.
St. Edmond starts a busy week Monday at home against Humboldt. The Gaels play NCC games at Algona Wednesday and at home against Clarion-Goldfield Thursday. They finish the week against city rival Fort Dodge at Harlan Rogers Friday.
The Golden Bears play every day next week, including NCC games Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They start the week at home against Algona.
St. Edmond won last night's JV game, 7-0. Sam Kolacia had three hits for the Gaels (8-4) while Michael Sharkey and Jason Setterdahl each had two hits. Sharkey scored twice.