ALBURNETT — Alburnett’s Kale Rose was good. Very good.
Teammate Hunter Caves was even better.
Both produced quality starts, including a shutout from Caves in the nightcap, helping the Class 1A sixth-ranked Pirates sweep 2A No. 2 North Linn, 7-5 and 7-0, Monday night in a Tri-Rivers Conference baseball doubleheader at Alburnett Park.
Rose struck out eight in six innings in the opener. He pitched four perfect innings to start, earning his fourth win. Caden Evans pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the save. Caves followed with a four-hitter against a team that entered the night with more than a 12.5 runs per game average.
“Kale and Hunter threw a heck of a ball game,” Pirates Coach Ryan Stensland said. “Our defense was outstanding, too.
“Against teams of this caliber, you have to show up and have pitching and defense. They did that and I’m proud of them.”
Caves stifled the Lynx offense, sitting down five straight batters in three separate stretches. He improved to 4-0 and lowered his 0.45 earned-run average. Caves was quick to credit his defense, which committed just one error.
“My shortstop Kale Rose was working really well,” Caves said. “He made some good plays.
“The coaching staff was calling good pitches at the right time.”
Caves said he felt good from the start thanks to a warm-up routine that includes icing twice, resist bands and a good bullpen session. He also had to have the right mindset.
“You’ve got to go with confidence,” Caves said. “If you don’t have confidence, you’re not going to pitch well. Confidence is everything.”
The Pirates scored early in both games, working with early leads. Rose and Caves worked 1-2-3 firsts and then had a lead by the time they returned to the mound.
“It’s a booster for the whole team,” Caves said. “Once you get a run up then you have the pressure on them.”
In the nightcap, Caves reached on an infield single, went from first to third on Austin Huber’s sacrifice bunt and scored on the errant throw to third.
Gavin Soukup added an RBI single in the second for the first of two hits. Grant Soukup added an RBI single in the two-run third for a 4-0 lead. Alburnett (10-2) added three more to ice it in the sixth.
In the opener, Caves scored on a Reed Stallman grounder that was misplayed. Alburnett scored at least one run in each of the next five innings. Caves had bases loaded walks in the second and fourth. Austin Huber and Caden Evans added
“We got rid of that goose egg early,” Stensland said. “We talked about coming out with a good start. It helps your pitchers and defense settle in and we just kept finding ways to add runs.
“We left a lot of guys on base, but that happens against a good team. Fortunately, we were able to execute just enough to come out with two big wins.”
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Stensland said this was a key accomplishment for the Pirates. He said his team showed growth, fixing some of the things that burned them against some previous opponents.
Even more impressive, it’s the second straight season Alburnett has swept North Linn, beating them at Troy Mills last year.
“This is huge for us,” Stensland said. “This is huge for our program and the community. They’re rivals. I think the thing that Alburnett’s learning is we can play with anybody on any night.”
Austin Hilmer had a two-run single and Trey McEnany had a two-run double for the Lynx in the opener. Hilmer finished with three hits overall. North Linn falls to 11-2.
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