Amateur baseball: Slieter hit in ninth lifts Luverne
LUVERNE –– With runners on second and third with two outs and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night at Redbird Field, Luverne’s Josh Slieter drove an off-speed pitch (1-2 count) into center field, plating James Fisher with the game-winning run in Game 2 of the Region 13C amateur baseball semifinals against the always-talented Wilmont Cardinals.
Slieter’s heroics sent the Redbirds (19-7) back to the State Class C Tournament for the first time since 2010, as Luverne completed its third consecutive playoff sweep with a dramatic 3-2 victory.
“It was a curve or a change-up,” said Slieter, who had earlier made a tremendous throw from left field to cut down a Wilmont runner trying to reach third base in the top of the ninth.
“I was just looking for a pitch to hit after I missed on the one before,” Slieter said of the game’s final at bat. “I am glad that I hit it hard enough that it wasn’t caught.”
Luverne, which capitalized on a pair of Wilmont throwing errors in the bottom of the second inning, held a 2-0 lead until the Cardinals scored twice in the top of the ninth.
Neither team mustered much offense as both pitchers –– Wilmont’s Lucas Henning and Luverne’s Andrew DeBoer –– were sensational.
Henning fanned 12 Redbirds, including six –– two in each inning –– during the fifth, sixth and seventh frames
He also struck out two batters in the third inning and notched a K in every frame but the eighth when he retired the side in order for the sixth time.
“Lucas pitched an absolutely super game,” praised Wilmont manager Todd Rogers. “It’s too bad we couldn’t get some runs before the ninth inning. But DeBoer pitched well for Luverne, too.”
DeBoer twirled five 1-2-3 innings and struck out seven Cardinals, getting a pair of strikeouts in both the second and fifth frames.
“Andrew pitched unbelievable,” summed up Fisher, who plays second base and also manages the Redbirds. “He did a great job for us all game long.”
DeBoer had a four-hit shutout going through eight innings and had issued just a pair of walks.
“I was just trying to do the best I could and rely on my defense,” said DeBoer, who pitched for Minnesota West several years ago before a collegiate stint in Dodge City, Kansas. “This was a good win for us against a very good team.”
Paced by the 3-for-3 performance by left fielder Joe Krivarchka (who also drew a walk and stole a base), the Cardinals outhit the Redbirds, 7-6, Friday –– but did not score until Krivarchka crossed the plate in the top of then ninth on a booming RBI single by Blake Rogers (2-for-4).
Slieter, however, helped prevent a future run –– on the same play –– when his throw to Cody Christensen was in time to tag out a sliding Steven Kremer (one-out walk) at third base for the inning’s second out.
After a walk to Henning, Wilmont’s Justin Saufley smacked an infield single pinch runner Mike Vorwald streaked home from second on an ensuing error –– Luverne’s only one of the game –– knotting the score.
DeBoer was able to get the third out on a fly out to right fielder Taylor Van Santen and the Redbirds came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
After Henning notched his 12th strikeout, Fisher drew a four-pitch walk –– just the second bases-on-balls issued by Henning all game –– and DeBoer lofted a looping single into shallow left field.
With two runners on base and one out, Christensen hit a smash down the first-base line, which was handled for Saufley for the second out.
But, DeBoer advanced to third and Fisher moved to third on the play.
Slieter then ended the game with his RBI up the middle.
“We had a lot of guys come through,” summed up Fisher. “Great pitching, good defense and timely hitting –– that’s what it takes.”
Luverne had taken its 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second when Fisher stroked a single and advanced to third on a throwing error on DeBoer’s bunt single.
Fisher scored on a fielder’s choice RBI by Christensen, who advance to second on a single by Slieter and later hustled home after Wilmont’s second throwing error of the inning.
“We were aggressive on the bases and ran hard,” concluded Fisher.
Luverne will play the winner of the Fairmont vs. Hadley series (Game 2 is today at Hadley, 2 p.m.) beginning next Wednesday.
Wilmont (19-5) will tangle with the loser of that series for the right to become the Region’s third state tournament entrant.
Both of these series’ will the best two-of-three.
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