WINSTED – If you arrived late to the opening game of the Crow River Valley League playoffs between the Mayer Blazers and Brownton Bruins, you probably missed about half the game. Mayer’s Will Lalonde and Brownton’s Ryan Grams put on a show on the mound, but it was the Blazers who scratched out a 1-0 win over the Bruins in a game that barely took over 90 minutes. With the win, Mayer took a 1-0 lead in the best of three-game series.
Lalonde and Grams were in control on the mound all game long. The two combined for 21 strikeouts between them and allowed just five hits apiece.
Mayer had two of their five hits in the first inning as it looked like they were going to get to Grams early. Andrew Betcher and Josh Anthony led off the inning with back-to-back singles, but Grams set the tone for the rest of the game by getting out of trouble with a pair of strikeouts.
After letting a scoring chance slip away in the first, the Blazers took advantage of a two-out walk in the bottom of the third. Anthony kept the inning alive by drawing a walk, and it was Cameron Smrekar who delivered the clutch hit for the Blazers. An RBI double to the gap allowed Anthony to score with two outs and give Mayer a 1-0 lead.
Smrekar’s RBI double was nearly all the offense the Blazers had the rest of the game. In the final five innings, Mayer had just three base runners the rest of the way as Grams was in control on the mound. Over the course of the fourth, fifth, and six innings, Grams had retired 10 batters in a row.
As good as Grams was on the mound, Lalonde was even better. From the opening pitch, Lalonde had his stuff working. He struck out the side in order in the top of the first on just 10 pitches, and carried that over the rest of the game.
For the game, Lalonde finished with a complete-game shutout in which he allowed just five hits and struck out 12. He put the exclamation point on his brilliant performance in the top of the ninth by making a great defensive play on a comebacker to the mound to take away a scoring chance for the Bruins.
The Blazers hold a 1-0 lead in the series against the Bruins after the win. Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday night in Brownton. Another win for the Blazers and they are headed to the Region 7C Tournament. A loss would mean there will be a Game 3 Sunday afternoon back in Brownton.