Lions blank Rugby in season opener

Bishop Ryan baseball had no trouble scoring runs last season. The same was the case on Monday.

Fresh off its first state tournament appearance in three seasons, Ryan opened its 2014 account with a 10-0 win over Rugby at Jack Hoeven Park. The game lasted less than four full innings.

The Lions won 15 games last season en route to a seventh place finish at the state tournament. They averaged 9.9 runs per game.

Amid strong winds, Ryan brought 11 batters to the plate in the first inning. Seven went on to score.

Ryan coach Brent Nelson was pleased with his team’s run production. It’s something to which he’s grown accumstomed.

“Last spring, we did that pretty consistent most of the time,” Nelson said. “We scored a lot of runs, and if we can get 8-10 runs, I’ll feel pretty comfortable. Our pitchers throw strikes, and our defense does a good job behind them. So, if we can get out to a strong start like we did today and score runs, we’re gonna win a lot of games.”

Lions senior starter Austin Eggl threw 42 pitches in four innings of work, striking our four while allowing just one hit and no runs.

Rugby starter Evan Burckhard’s pitch count reached 34 in the first inning alone.

“We talked about that at the beginning of that game, that we wanted to get out to a quick start and score some runs, and we did that,” Nelson said. “When you can get seven runs on the board in the first inning without even stepping out onto the field, you’re gonna win a lot of games.”

Ryan tallied eight hits in the win, including a pair of RBI triples from seniors Nick Berentson and Mason Kramer.

Had it not been so windy, Kramer’s triple, which one-hopped against the right-field fence, would likely have resulted in the senior’s first home run of the season. He hit four in 2013.

“We’ll get a lot of games like this in North Dakota, where the wind affects so much,” Kramer said. “You’ve gotta hit to get on base, because there aren’t going to be a lot of balls hit out of the park in this weather.”

Added Nelson: “Mason’s probably would have been out any other day had it not been for that wind. Our guys are seeing the ball pretty well.”

Kramer went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

All but one Ryan player scored.

“Offensively, we’ve got guys that can hit the ball, 1 through 9,” Kramer said. “We’ve been playing together now for the last 3-4 years. We know what to do. We where how to hit and how to run the bases.”

While the Lions’ offense is potent, their pitching is just as much a weapon, and it starts with Eggl, said Nelson.

“Austin is our ace,” he said. “He’s a guy that I can throw out there, and I know he’s gonna throw strikes and stay around the plate. Any time you have a guy like that, you’re gonna do well.”

A varsity starter for the past three seasons, Eggl allowed two Rugby baserunners all game. He walked one batter in the second inning. A minute later, he picked the baserunner off at first.

“I located the fastball well and got ahead of them early,” said Eggl, who led the Ryan staff with 20 innings pitched last season. “I pitched to contact, and our players in the field made good plays.”

Ryan will put its unblemished record on the line against Central McLean at 4 p.m. today at Jack Hoeven Park.

Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.