DICKINSON, N.D. — Nebraska pitching recruit Kyle Kubat is known more for his arm, but it was his bat that helped lift P.I. Midwest (Omaha Creighton Prep) to a first-round win Thursday at the American Legion Great Plains Regional baseball tournament.
Kubat belted a tie-breaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning to boost P.I. Midwest to a 6-5 win over Lino Lakes (Minn.) in the double-elimination tourney. The victory moves the team from Prep into a 9 p.m. Friday winners bracket game against the winner of Thursday’s late game between Iowa champion Carroll and host Dickinson.
“Kyle wasn’t at his sharpest for us on the mound today, but he really battled to get us into the sixth (inning),” P.I. Midwest coach Pat Mooney said. “Then he came through with that big home run.”
The game was tied 4-4 in the sixth when Aaron Goynes drew a one-out walk. Kubat followed with a home run to left field, and P.I. Midwest was able to hang on to move its record to 37-11.
“We left some guys on base early, but I wasn’t getting too frustrated by that,” Mooney said. “We’ve been hitting the ball pretty well, so I thought we were still in pretty good shape.”
Leadoff batter Kevin Connolly got the game off to a good start offensively for P.I. Midwest, blasting a homer to left in the bottom of the first. But Lino Lakes struck back in the top of the second by scoring three against Kubat with the help of three consecutive singles, a run-scoring groundout and a wild pitch.
P.I. Midwest got one run back in the bottom of the inning when Zak Leighton led off with a single and eventually scored on an RBI single by T.J. Wood. Leighton had a run-scoring single in the third inning to tie the game, but P.I. Midwest left the bases loaded when Scott Bates hit into a double play.
Lino Lakes took its last lead in the fourth with the help of two uncharacteristic throwing errors by Kubat, but P.I. Midwest tied it again on an RBI double by Billy Lipari. That set the stage for Kubat’s go-ahead homer in the sixth to give P.I. Midwest a 6-4 lead, though Lino Lakes made it interesting in the final two innings.
The Minnesota state runner-up scored one run in the eighth and still had the bases loaded with two outs, but a heads-up play by shortstop Leighton ended the inning. He fielded a grounder that caromed off the glove of third baseman Derek Petrich and threw out the runner at first to complete the 5-6-3 putout.
“That was a monster play for us,” Mooney said. “If we don’t get that out, they tie the game and maybe take the lead.”
Lino Lakes threatened again in the ninth, advancing a runner to third with two outs. But Aiden Hook got the final batter to fly out to center field to preserve the victory.
Kubat lasted 5-1/3 innings and Goynes came on in relief to get the win. Hook relieved Goynes in the ninth to earn the save.
Lino Lakes (29-10) drops into an elimination game at 2 p.m. Friday.
Lino Lakes, Minn............030 100 010 -- 5 9 1
P.I. Midwest......................111 012 00x -- 6 16 2
W: Goynes. L: Reese. 2B: PIM, Lipari, Hook. HR: PIM, Connolly, Kubat.