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Blooming Prairie’s Brad Staska takes a hack at a pitch during Tuesday’s 12-3 loss to NRHEG. (Ryan Anderson/People’s Press)

BLOOMING PRAIRE—Too many walks and men stranded on base spelled doom for the Blooming Prairie baseball team Tuesday, as NRHEG—ignited by a five-run fifth inning—handled the Awesome Blossoms, 12-3.

“Completely different game than (Monday),” when the Awesome Blossoms kept the free passes to a minimum and beat Faribault Bethlehem Academy, 6-3, said Matt Kittelson, Blooming Prairie’s head coach. On Tuesday, the Panthers “did everything they needed to do to win, and we didn’t—not our best game.”

“We didn’t get hits with runners in scoring position, but the walks were the biggest” reason for Tuesday’s defeat, he added. Pitchers will need to command better going forward, and “we need our better hitters to step up.”

Blooming Prairie starter Seth Peterson endured a rough first inning in which he walked the bases loaded. He did induce the ground ball he was seeking from Evan Dobberstein, but it was mishandled in the infield, so all runners were safe, and two scored. Blooming Prairie then turned a double play off the bat off Spencer Tufte after a walk issued to Cole Thompson, but a third run scored on the play before Peterson struck out Devin Buendorf to end the frame.

The Blossoms tied the game in the bottom of the inning off Jake Tasker, but those runs would be all they’d get off the sophomore righthander, who provided a true workhorse performance, going six strong innings and striking out nine while walking only one batter to record the victory. Peterson’s fly ball to right field carried on a strong breeze blowing that direction to put the Awesome Blossoms on the board, an RBI groundout by Dylan Nirk cut the margin to one, and an infield hit by Max Romeo tied the contest.

In the top of the second, Cole Staloch’s two-run homer to left ultimately proved to be the game-winner, as Blooming Prairie stranded runners on second and third in their half of the inning when Tasker dropped in a beautiful breaking ball on a full count to catch Brad Staska—an all-state player last season —looking. Down 6-3 in the bottom of the fourth, the home side again stranded two runners on base, as Tasker struck out Staska once more to conclude that inning.

The Panthers blew the game open in the fifth as Ethan Arett relieved Peterson. He walked four batters—sandwiched around a bunt single by Thompson—and the margin swelled to five; after striking out Graham Kyllo, he walked in another run to make it 9-3, and Payton Simon took over on the mound. The junior was greeted rudely by Braedan Routh, who smoked a single up the middle on the first pitch he saw to plate two more runs.

The Awesome Blossoms, who fell to 1-1 with the loss, never seriously threatened again the rest of the game. Blooming Prairie will be idle until Saturday, when they host Maple River in a doubleheader.

NRHEG 12, Blooming Prairie 3

Blooming Prairie pitching: Seth Peterson, L (4IP, 2H, 6R, 5ER, 6K, 6BB), Ethan Arett (0.1 IP, 1H, 5R, 5ER, 1K, 5BB), Payton Simon (1.2 IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 1K), Ian Wayne (1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0K, 0BB)

Blooming Prairie leading hitters: Payton Simon 1-2 (2BB, 2B, RBI), Seth Peterson 1-1 (RBI1B, 2BB)

Reach Reporter Ryan Anderson at 507-444-2376 or follow him on Twitter @randerson_ryan.

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