Luverne comes back to win in five, advances to state tournament
JACKSON -- Riding the veteran arm of Kent Woelber and the hot bat of Jeff Sehr Thursday night, the Luverne Redbirds captured a 5-2 victory in Game 5 of their Region 13C playoff series with the Jackson Bulls to advance to the state amateur baseball tournament.
The victory completes Luverne's series comeback, as Jackson led 2-0 after the first two games of the best-of-five series. Luverne hosts Fox Lake at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to determine seeding for the state tournament, which begins next weekend in Norwood and Hamburg.
"It is a privilege to go to the state tournament," Redbirds manager Barry Shelton said following the game. "It's something we've worked for all season, and it feels really good right now."
Woelber -- a draftee from the Pipestone A's -- hurled a complete game for Luverne. He struck out five Bulls, scattered seven hits and walked one.
Sehr had a hand in all five of Luverne's runs, as he went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI. He also put the ball in play in his final at-bat, which resulted in two more Redbird runs after two Jackson errors.
"Kent pitched a terrific ballgame, and Jeff really hit the ball well," Shelton said. "Those two veterans came up big for us tonight."
With the game tied at 2-all in the top of the eighth, Sehr ripped his third hit of the night -- a one-out RBI single to left to score Jake Studer, who reached on an error to begin the frame.
Woelber worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning, and Luverne tacked on two more runs in the ninth to go up 5-2.
Jared Pick, who turned in a pair of pitching gems in Games 1 and 4, led off with a bunt single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tony Sandulte.
A wild pitch allowed Pick to go to third before Studer walked and stole second. Kirby Johnson, pitching in relief, then got Matt Oye to foulout, and the Bulls looked to get out of the inning unscathed.
However, Sehr bounced a ball up the middle to shortstop Andy Wolf, who bobbled the ball before throwing late to first. Pick scored easily on the play, and first baseman Kip Wachal forgot about Studer, who raced around third and scored the fifth Luverne run.
Jackson put runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Woelber induced a 5-4-3 double play (Rob Fodness to Sandbulte to Sehr) and a flyout to left to work out of the jam and secure the Luverne victory.
Luverne scored the game's first run in the second when Fodness cracked an RBI single up the middle to score Sehr, who had led off with a booming double to the fence in left.
Jackson took a 2-1 lead in the third when Adam Schmidt -- a draftee from Fairmont -- belted a two-run home run to left. Wolf was hit by a pitch to start the inning and scored on Schmidt's blast.
Jackson held onto its 2-1 lead all the way until the seventh, as veteran hurler Tom Hady was shutting down the Luverne lineup.
Hady (7 1/3 IP, seven strikeouts, five hits, three walks, three runs) retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced from the third through the sixth, including 11 straight.
Sehr, though, started the seventh with another double to left, and Woelber was intentionally walked for the second time in the game. Hady then fanned James Fisher and Fodness, but Tyler Reisch smacked a two-out single to left, and Sehr just beat the throw to the plate from leftfielder Jordan Lewis to tie the game at 2-2.
Luverne took the lead on Sehr's RBI single in the eighth, and threatened to score more that inning. With the bases loaded and just one out, Jackson reliever Tom Schuller recorded outs on a strikeout and a fielder's choice to help the Bulls escape further damage.
Schmidt and Blaise Jacobsen each had two hits for Jackson, while Caleb Rossow, Trent Sukalski and Jordan Lewis each had a single.
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Luv. 010 000 112 -- 5 6 0
Jack. 002 000 000 -- 2 7 5