The Lakeland baseball team received complete games from pitchers Mike Ruzek and Bill Miller in a sweep of St. Michael's, 7-0 and 4-3, in a pair of seven inning contests on Friday at Terry Park.
"Both Mike and Bill did really well," Lakeland coach Chris Thousand said. "They took the team on their backs and kind of carried the team. They both wanted to be the guy to help turn things around and get the team back on the winning track."
Miller (Appleton) surrendered just one earned run and struck out eight, going the distance and fighting through several jams along the way, including a two-on, no-outs situation in the top of the seventh inning.
Of Miller's 97 pitches, 77 were strikes. He also threw 27 first-pitch strikes out of 32 batters faced.
"I was able to make them hit my pitch," Miller, a sophomore, said. "I went to my cutter on the inner half a lot after the third inning. They were sitting on the fastball the whole time."
The Muskies recorded a walk-off victory to give Miller the win, completing a comeback from a 3-0 deficit through 4 ½ innings in the bottom of the seventh.
With the game tied at three, sophomore David Novak started the frame with a scorching double down the right field line. After sophomore Cal Post reached on a bunt single, freshman Mike Huber was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Two batters later, sophomore Brad Chrudimsky was hit by a pitch to knock in the winning run. Chrudimsky was 3-for-3 in the game with one run and an RBI.
Post knocked in both runs in the fifth with a bases-loaded single down the left field line. The Muskies scored in the next inning thanks to a two-out RBI single by sophomore Andrew Schartner, which tied the game at three apiece.
Kevin Wickles of St. Michael's took the loss in relief.
Ruzek tossed a shutout in Game 1, going the distance (seven innings) and allowing just five hits while striking out five to pick up his first win of the season.
The Manitowoc native was able to get ahead in the count early and often, keeping the ball down and generating groundouts as a result. He allowed no runners past second base and had command of all four of his pitches.
"I felt like I needed to come back strong after my last start," said Ruzek, referring to his first start, in which he surrendered 11 earned runs in two innings. "[Catcher] Dave [Novak] likes to mix it up a lot. I was throwing an off-speed pitch for the first pitch a lot, and then just mixing up fastballs and sliders."
The sophomore right-hander was backed up by a solid defensive performance. The Muskies played errorless ball for the first time this season, turned three double plays and made several nice plays in the field. Post and shortstop Brad Young especially stood out for their work in the field.
"Brad Young did great work on the infield," Ruzek said. "I think he turned a couple double plays, so those were huge."
Lakeland broke the game open with a five-run seventh inning, highlighted by a run-scoring single by Young and a 2-run triple by freshman second baseman Alex Finke. The Muskies also benefited from two errors by St. Michael's in the frame.
In his first start of the season, sophomore left fielder Roberto Flores went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base. Finke and junior centerfielder Jacob Heinemeyer also tallied two hits apiece.
Saints starting pitcher Mike Robert pitched all seven innings, taking the loss.
"It was huge to get these two wins," Ruzek said. "We haven't done that since last year. We felt we should have had two against Scranton [on Tuesday], and one yesterday [against St. Lawrence]. We need to continue to learn how to win."
Lakeland caps the spring break trip tomorrow with a doubleheader against Plattsburgh St. The first game is scheduled for 10 a.m. EST, with the second game tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m.
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