When these teams last played each other, Albert Lea didn’t have a good showing. It was April 2018 and the Tigers took a drubbing in their doubleheader, losing 11-3 and 10-0 to Mankato East.
Now, Albert Lea (5-3, 3-1) seems much improved from the squad that got clobbered a season ago, and they'll look for some payback against the visiting Cougars in what will be their second game against each other this week — with this one counting in the Big 9 Conference standings.
Albert Lea senior infielder Brock Hammer had three hits, three walks, scored two runs and tallied three RBI in a 11-3 win over Faribault last Thursday. Hammer has helped lead the Tigers' offensive ambush, which has scored 11 or more runs in each of their last two games.
Mankato East won its first five games by a combined score of 49-11 before hitting a roadblock in a 4-1 loss to Rochester John Marshall on April 23. The Cougars (6-1, 4-1) bounced back with a 6-0 win over rival Mankato West, spearheaded by senior Jackson Keller’s three-hit, three-RBI outburst in the game.
The Cougars haven’t played since last Tuesday, so they should have a full stable of rested arms available this week — including senior Ryan Clifford, who will want to get back on the mound after surrendering eight hits and three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in the loss to John Marshall.