MA’s Mike Donahue leads off first base while being held on by Sean Mahoney of Inter-Lakes on April 30. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
May 07, 2012MEREDITH – When Brandon Krueger is on top of his game, look out.
The junior southpaw struck out 14 batters in a complete game effort, showing the stuff that makes him one of the best pitchers in the Lakes Region in the process, as Inter-Lakes High School defeated neighboring foe Moultonboro Academy, 7-1, at Prescott Park on April 30.
"My arm felt really good today," said Krueger, who allowed just three hits and didn't walk a batter in his dominating outing. "In the past few games it hasn't quite been to its top performance. I got some rest and today I came out throwing pretty hard. My curveball was working really good."
Krueger's curveball was definitely the star of the game, as he mixed the spinner in early and often to compliment his strong fastball. When he's got multiple pitches finding the strike zone, the junior is nearly impossible to hit.
"Throughout the game, I don't why but I seem to get more comfortable with my curveball," Krueger explained. "It just seems to get more action than it does in the beginning of the game. Progressively through the season it's gotten better."
Establishing Krueger's curveball was something I-L coach Vint Choiniere wanted to see from his star pitcher, as the lefty had struggled in his previous outing against Belmont.
"We had three different sequences today where we threw four consecutive curveballs," said Choiniere. "First of all, that's rare in a high school game. And with each one of those four pitches, his control was good enough where he got lower and lower and lower in the zone with it. That makes it that much tougher for the batter, to the point where when you get two strikes, you have to swing at that ball."
MA skipper Todd Clifford was impressed with Krueger as well, as the I-L pitcher struck out at least two hitters in five different innings and K'ed the side in the fifth.
"I don't even think it was the fastball," Clifford began. "He throws harder than we've seen but my kids all came back saying, 'Man, his curveball breaks so much.' The ump was saying, his curveball is really biting today. It looks like it's going to be a strike then it's jamming them or moves out of the zone. He definitely threw pretty well today."
While Krueger was in command on the mound, the Lakers bats gave him all the run support he needed in the bottom of the first inning. I-L scored five runs on five hits and two MA errors to jump out to a 5-0 lead off Panthers starting pitcher Marcus Swedberg.
"I told several people that if we're going to win a game with (Krueger) pitching, it's going to be 3-2 or 2-1 or something," said Clifford. "Then we came out of the gates and gave them a couple of unearned runs there with two errors and we're in some trouble."
The Lakers grabbed another run in the third when Brian Borders reached on an error and scored on another miscue, as MA committed three errors in a row in the inning and six for the game.
"I told Vint before the game that we weren't really hitting the way I would like but we've been pitching pretty well and playing good defense," said Clifford. "Well…like he said, 'as soon as you open your mouth, right?"
The Lakers to a 7-0 lead in the fifth on a Dylan Sheehan RBI before the Panthers finally got to Krueger for a run in the sixth. Hunter Jensen was hit by a pitch with two outs, one of two Panthers to get plunked on the day, before moving to third on a single by Swedberg. Jensen would get to trot home with Ben O'Neil at the plate however, as Krueger was called for a balk as he attempted a pickoff move to first base and MA was within 7-1.
Krueger would finish things off however, as he retired the final four batters of the game, three via strikeouts, to pick up his third win of the season on the mound.
"There were at least seven or eight batters today where he led with a curveball and that really puts the batter at a disadvantage mentally as much as anything," Choiniere said of his pitcher. "Now he's very unsure what to look for after seeing a curveball right off the bat."
Swedberg pitched the first three innings on the mound for MA before Duncan Richards came on in relief for the final three frames. Richards allowed just an unearned run in the fifth and two singles during his stay on the mound, and he also singled in the third inning. Scott Harrington had the other MA hit on the afternoon.
The win saw I-L improve to 4-3 on the season, with another game against MA on the horizon in Moultonboro on May 21.
"We have a lot of young guys and we're getting better every day," said Krueger. "From where we were at the beginning of the season to where we are now, we've definitely come a long, long way."