Post 5 settles for second in district tourney
NEW ULM -- In the end, it was a close play at the plate that turned Post 5's bid for a Division I, District 2 American Legion district baseball championship into a runner-up finish.
Worthington catcher Blake Rogers blocked the plate while receiving a perfect one-hop throw from rightfielder Aaron Pavelko as the potential game-winning run charged down the line in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The sliding New Ulm Gold runner, Tanner Kluis, crossed the plate in a cloud of dust as Rogers gamely applied the tag. The umpire waved his arms wildly from side to side. Kluis was safe.
Rogers protested briefly and tossed the ball aside as Gold players rushed from all angles toward the scene. New Ulm had won Sunday's championship game at New Ulm Johnson Park, 5-4, on a sacrifice fly.
Thus ended a dramatic District 2 tournament. Post 5 had opened the four-day event with a Thursday forfeit victory over St. Peter, then lost 3-2 to Sleepy Eye before beating Fairmont 7-5 on Friday. On Saturday, Worthington nipped that same Sleepy Eye team 4-3 in 10 innings to face top-seeded New Ulm for the right to advance to state.
In the end, Worthington finished just where it started -- the team that was seeded No. 2 finished No. 2.
Deadlocked 4-4 in the ninth in the finale, Worthington pitcher Logan Rogers, who had just come on in relief of starter Lucas Henning, walked his first batter, Kluis, on a 3-2 pitch. The next hitter, Drew Pfaff, punched a pitch safely into rightfield on a hit-and-run play and Kluis motored to third. Next up, Jacob Gieseke -- as Pfaff took second on the pitch, lofted a fly ball to right that Pavelko gathered in a few steps to his left. His throw home was on the mark and it arrived just Kluis began his slide.
After the awards ceremony ended, the catcher Rogers was asked if he believed he made the tag in time.
"Aaron got around it and had a good throw. I had (the plate) blocked but I couldn't hold it. His slide had so much force," he said.
Worthington Post 5 coach Todd Rogers was asked the same question from his angle in the dugout.
"It was all dust. We couldn't see anything over here. But I know Aaron made a great throw. One hop and it was right there," he said.
With the victory, New Ulm Post 132 advances to the state tournament in Richfield armed with an outstanding 25-7 record. Worthington finishes its summer season with an outstanding record, too, at 17-6.
Here's a wrapup of Worthington's Saturday-Sunday action:
Worthington 4, Sleepy Eye 3
Post 5 led 3-0 after three innings, spotted Sleepy Eye three runs in the fourth, and then the two teams settled in to play scoreless ball until the 10th.
Henning got the ball rolling, literally, for Post 5 when he led off the inning with a line drive triple to centerfield that David Suprenant dove for and missed. Chasing the hit toward the centerfield fence, he was unable to retrieve it in time to stop Henning from reaching third base. The next hitter, designated hitter Ryan Lee, bounced a single between third base and shortstop to score Henning.
Henning, who came on to pitch in the eighth, was still on the mound for the bottom of the 10th. He allowed a one-out walk but stranded Sleepy Eye's last hope at second base.
Three Worthington pitchers combined to throw a five-hitter at Sleepy Eye. Lanky lefthander Mitchell Baumhoefner used his smooth throwing motion for the first four innings, allowing all three of Post 7's runs while walking six and striking out four. Jordan Bertrand held Sleepy Eye in place for the next three and one-third innings before Henning came on to get the win.
Mike Zinnel threw a complete game for Sleepy Eye in taking the loss.
Worthington opened the scoring with two second inning runs, helped along by a passed ball and a wild catcher's throw into centerfield. Lee and Tyler Hatterman had hits in the inning, and Deron Soderholm drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
In the third, Worthington's Tristan Sorenson tripled and scored on a Blake Rogers sacrifice fly.
Worthington seemed to be crusing until three hits in the fourth, and two Worthington errors, helped Post 7 even the score at 3-all. But while Bertrand and Henning were twirling beginning in the fifth inning, no Sleepy Eye runner reached as far as third base and only three times did any Post 7 runner reach as far as second.
Lee had three hits in the contest, with a double. Blake Rogers had two singles to go along with his sacrifice fly.
R H E
Wor 021 000 000 1 -- 4 11 3
SE 000 300 000 0 -- 3 5 3
New Ulm 5, Worthington 4
Just as in Saturday's game, Worthington jumped on top early only to let the lead slip in the middle innings.
Pavelko, who was issued a walk from New Ulm starter Jordan Guggisberg, scored in the first inning after a Blake Rogers double and Henning infield grounder. In the third, leadoff hitter A.J. Hayenga walked, stole second base and took third on a single by Blake Rogers. A double by Henning that sailed over the head of centerfielder Tim Kehren scored them both.
In the fourth inning, Nate Ray scored the fourth run from third base when, with two out, third baseman Gieseke threw into the dirt on an attempt to throw out a runner at first base.
Until then, the only run New Ulm could muster was in the second inning through a two-out, four-pitch bases-loaded walk to Kehren that forced in Pfaff. Henning escaped further damage by getting the next hitter to fly out to right.
Down 4-1, New Ulm scored twice in the bottom of the fourth inning and once more in the fifth to knot the game at 4-4. Two Post 5 infield errors in the fifth inning contributed to two unearned New Ulm runs in the fourth. Then in the fifth, New Ulm scored again on singles by Pfaff and Gieseke and an RBI double by leadoff hitter Kehren into the ivy growing on the rightfield fence.
Four innings later, Worthington went down in order in the ninth. In its half inning, the Gold scored their winning run, making a winner out of Guggisberg, who allowed six hits, walked four and struck out five. New Ulm committed just one error behind him, and third baseman Gieseke made two diving catches and throws that would have made Brooks Robinson proud.
Coach Rogers was philosophical after the game.
"First of all, I thought we had a dang good year, going 17-6. And up here, anytime you can play New Ulm 4-4 going into the ninth, you're doing pretty good. ... Lucas pitched a heck of a game. We had that one bad inning there."
Henning's line was eight innings, 10 hits, three walks and five strikeouts, and two earned runs.
Coach Rogers also noted that in six years of coaching the Worthington Legion team, Sunday's district championship game was as far as Post 5 had advanced.
"I thought the boys did a real good job just to get here," he said.
R H E
Wor 102 100 000 -- 4 6 3
NU 010 210 001 -- 5 11 1