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Omaha Pi Midwest uses 2 HR to help top Lino Lakes

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Omaha (Neb.) Pi Midwest's Zackary Leighton connects on a pitch Thursday during the Central Plains Regional American Legion baseball tournament at Southside Municipal Ballpark.

The game was never truly broken open.

Both Omaha (Neb.) Pi Midwest and Lino Lakes, Minn., left a combined 25 runners on base as Omaha won 6-5 in the opening round of the Central Plains Regional American Legion baseball tournament on Thursday at Southside Municipal Ballpark.

Omaha (38-11) opened up the game with a solo home run by Kevin Connolly.

"That always helps. It eases the tension for everybody," Omaha head coach Pat Mooney said. "We swung the bats pretty well. We just didn't get that double with a bunch of guys on base."

The home run hitting wasn't over for Omaha though as starting pitcher Kyle Kubat hit a go-ahead two-run shot in the sixth.

"That was a big sigh of relief," Kubat said. "I put a good swing on it and it went out."

Kubat threw 5 1/3 innings allowing four runs (three earned runs), while striking out six.

"He gutted it out," Mooney said. "He's been pretty dominant for us all year. This was probably one of his worst outings of the year."

Aaron Goynes replaced Kubat and got some big outs with runners on base in his 2 2/3 innings on the mound. Goynes had some control issues in the ninth that led to Aiden Hook coming into close out the game.

"Aaron threw really well when he need to," Mooney said. "I think he just lost it a little bit, so we had to bring in Aiden."

Omaha saw its one-run lead quickly diminished in the second as Lino Lakes (29-11) scored three runs in the inning. Alex Marolt and Jake Irlbeck each had RBIs in the inning, while Marolt scored on a wild pitch.

Steve Piette took the mound for the Cougars, throwing five innings and allowing four runs on 11 hits while striking out two. Lino Lakes' pitching staff had been still recovering after playing seven games in four days at its state tournament this last weekend. One of the pitchers unable to take the mound was Austin Malinowski, a 16th-round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins.

"Steve is our number two," Lino Lakes head coach Rollie Goertzen said. "We weren't able to pitch our ace, but Steve mixed his pitches well."

Omaha trailed 3-1 after the top of the second but scored a run in both the second and third to knot the game at 3-3.

The Cougars broke the tie in the fourth as Marolt scored on another wild pitch by Kubat to take a one-run advantage.

Piette was relieved by Jake Reese in the sixth. Three batters into Reese's day, Kubat blasted the two-run home run on a 1-1 count to give Omaha the 6-4 lead.

In the eighth, Lino Lakes had the bases loaded with two outs. Piette got a RBI walk to bring the Cougars within one, but Malinowski hit a grounder that bounced off the third baseman's foot as the shortstop snagged it out of midair to toss out Malinowski at first.

"To get here we've had a lot of dramatic things happen in our favor in the later innings," Goertzen said. "It just didn't go our way this game."

Omaha plays the winner of tonight's Dickinson and Carroll County, Iowa, game in the late game of the night doubleheader at approximately 8 p.m. Lino Lakes plays the loser of Dickinson and Carroll County at approximately 1 p.m. today, the second game of the morning doubleheader.

Despite not getting that key hit, Goertzen knows his team will be ready to swing the bats.

"We'll come back and battle," he said. "This group of guys have had a no quit attitude all year long."

LL 030 100 010 -- 5 9 1

Omaha 111 012 00X -- 6 16 2

Steve Piette, Jake Resse (6), Jacob Kosak (7) and Jake Irlbeck. Kyle Kubat, Aaron Goynes (6), Aiden Hook (9) and Billy Lipari.

W-Aaron Goynes. L-Jake Reese. HR-O, Kevin Connolly, Kyle Kubat.

Highlights: LL, Benny LaMere 3-for-4; Simon Knockel 1-for-3; Austin Malinowski 2-for-4; Alex Marolt 2-for-4, RBI, 2 runs. O, Kevin Connolly 2-for-5, HR; Aaron Goynes 1-for-3, 1 run; Kyle Kubat 1-for-4, HR, 2RBI; Derek Petrich 3-for-5; Aiden Hook 1-for-5; Zak Leighton 3-for-5; Billy Lipari 3-for-4; TJ Wood 2-for-4, RBI.

Records: Omaha (38-11), Lino Lakes (29-11).