Opening games are like night and day for Magic baseball

One of the best things about a jam-packed schedule is that it allows the ability to shake off the last game and quickly move on to the next. The Magic baseball team has already take advantage of that twice this year.
Monticello started their season with two performances that couldn’t have been much more opposite of each other, especially at the plate.

Jake Kounkel delivers a pitch during Monticello’s season opening 1-0 loss to North Branch Friday afternoon. The Magic bounced back with a 19-0 victory over Cloquet later that night. (Times staff photo by Clay Sawatzke)

Jake Kounkel delivers a pitch during Monticello’s season opening 1-0 loss to North Branch Friday afternoon. The Magic bounced back with a 19-0 victory over Cloquet later that night. (Times staff photo by Clay Sawatzke)

In their Friday afternoon season opener Monticello struggled to generate any offense against North Branch’s starting pitcher. Meanwhile, Magic ace Jake Kounkel  struck out eight over four innings, escaping multiple jams, but he, and the Magic, were done in by just one allowed run in the third inning.
Monticello had just five hits in the game, with two of them coming as Kounkel doubles.
Tyler Streich threw three scoreless innings of relief for the Magic in the 1-0 loss.
After sitting a game out, the Magic bats sprung to life in game two of the three game tournament.
Monticello led Cloquet 10-0 after two, the way to a 19-0 victory in just five innings.
Hayden Laimer led the hit parade for the Magic. The senior shortstop racked up four of the teams 15 hits, while also scoring three runs and driving in two more. Tanner Eckhart picked up three hits in four at bats for the Magic, scoring two runs of his own while knocking in a team-high three RBI.
Colton LaJoie and Mike Fisette added two hits a piece for the Magic, as eight different players registered a hit.
Andrew Manning went all five innings on the mound for the Magic, striking out eight hitters during the shutout performance.
Saturday, the Magic met Grand Rapids in Princeton, but again failed to bring their hitting shoes with them. Monticello managed just two hits, both from Fisette, as they were shutout for the second time in three games, 3-0.
“We haven’t been hitting the ball well,” said Coach Corey Stanger. “I think some kids just have to relax a little bit.”
The bright spot for the Magic was another quality pitching performance.
Eckhart gave up just two runs over four innings in his first start of the year, and Luke Hanson came on in relief and allowed just on additional run in the sixth inning.
Tuesday night, the Magic once again bounced back well from a loss. Monticello went to Big Lake and won a 5-4, 12-inning thriller over the Hornets, moving Monticello’s record to 2-2, including 1-0 in Mississippi 8 play.
The Magic trailed 4-3 heading to the seventh and final inning, but took advantage of two Big Lake errors to force extra innings.
In extra innings, Andrew Manning kept the Hornets at bay on the mound until the Magic hitters could win the game.
Fisette finally did that. After Eckhart led off the 12th inning with a clutch triple, Fisette’s fourth hit of the game scored Eckhart and helped secure a big conference win for the Magic.
“That was a good step forward for us,” said Stanger, about the first conference win. “Big Lake is always a very good baseball team. The kids really battled well.”
It was no surprise that they were again led by Fisette, who has been the one consistently hot hitter to start the year.
“He’s a three year starter,” pointed out Stanger. “We have high expectations for him.”
The Magic clearly have them as a team too. And they’ll need more consistent offense to attain those aspirations, but they’ll also need to find ways to win when the bats aren’t hot, and Tuesday night they did just that.
The Magic are scheduled to play a home doubleheader tonight, with the first game against Rogers at 4 p.m., followed immediately by a second game.

Contact Clay Sawatzke at clay.sawatzke@ecm-inc.com

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