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Redbirds climb back into series, beat Bulls 17-10

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JACKSON -- In a high-scoring game, with a football-like final tally, the Luverne Redbirds prevailed Sunday afternoon at Wacker Field, 17-10, forcing a fourth game in the best-of-five Region 13C playoff series with the Jackson Bulls.

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Jackson (17-13) still leads the series, 2-1 and can clinch a state tournament trip with a victory in game 4 -- which will be played at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Luverne.

Sunday's game had lots of action -- both good and bad -- as a total of 25 hits were crunched, 22 free passes (18 walks and four beans) were issued and eight errors were committed.

A total of nine pitchers were used (six by Jackson and three by Luverne), 15 players stroked hits and 16 athletes scored runs.

Holding a 2-1 lead after four innings of action, the winning Redbirds went on an offensive rampage for the remainder of the contest -- starting with four runs in the top of the fifth.

"We put the bat on the ball and made things happen," declared Luverne manager Barry Shelton. "We had great offensive balance and showed good hustle on the bases."

The Redbirds (19-10) had gone 25 straight innings without a run over a three-game stretch before scoring two runs in the final two innings of their 6-2 loss to Jackson in Game 3 Friday night at Luverne.

Starting with a sharp lead-off single up the middle by center fielder Jake Studer, the Redbirds put 23 men on base over the last five innings of Sunday's game and plated 15 runs -- enough to hold off a couple of Jackson rallies.

"We did not execute very well today," Jackson manager Scott Bahr said after the contest.

"We did not make the defensive plays that we normally do. But give Luverne lots of credit. Barry had them ready to go -- they were fired up and excited to play the game from the first inning on."

Back-to-back errors by Jackson allowed the Redbirds to score in the top of the first as Matt Oye hustled home with the first of his three runs in the game.

Jackson's Andy Wolf scored in the bottom of the inning on a Luverne throwing error, knotting the score at 1-1.

After a scoreless second, Luverne took the lead for keeps in the top of the third when Jeff Sehr (3-for-5, three runs, two RBIs) drove in Studer ((2-for-3, four runs) with a deep sacrifice fly.

After Kent Woelber -- a Pipestone draftee -- pitched his third consecutive scoreless inning, his Luverne teammates gave the veteran (21 years of amateur baseball) right-hander some solid run support.

After Studer's lead-off single, Oye was beaned by Bulls' starter Brad Bosacker -- who had pitched well through the game's first four innings, retiring Luverne in order in both the second and fourth frames.

But after Sehr reached base on a beautiful bunt to load the bases with no outs, Bahr replaced Bosacker with Chris Whisney. The tall right-hander promptly retired the next two Redbirds (pop-up and short fly) and looked to have worked out of the jam.

Luverne shortstop James Fisher, however, lofted a ball just over the reach of Jackson second baseman Jared Rahe and both Studer and Oye scored, giving the Redbirds a 4-1 lead.

Fisher then stole second and Sehr scored on the play, stretching the gap to 5-1. Andrew DeBoer's RBI single plated Fisher, making the Luverne lead, 6-1, halfway through the game.

Woelber faced just four batters in the bottom of the fifth, and the Redbirds padded their lead with three runs in the top of the sixth.

Jared Pick and Tony Sandbulte drew back-to-back walks for Luverne before Studer laid down a nifty bunt against Jackson pitcher Adam Schmidt (a draftee from Fairmont). Schmidt's throw to first was off the mark, and Pick hustled home with the seventh Redbird run of the game.

Oye reached base on an infield dribbler, scoring Sandbulte. Later in the inning, Woelber's sacrifice fly plated Studer and the score was 9-1. 

The lead almost widened more -- but a strong throw home by Jackson left fielder Jordan Lewis gunned down Oye at the plate for the third out.

The Bulls rallied with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, as Kip Wachal and Rahe were both beaned by Woelber. Schmidt's RBI single to left scored Wachal, and after Rahe crossed on a wild pitch, trimming the lead to 9-3, Shelton replaced Woelber (5 2/3 innings) with Jesse Kuhlman.

Jackson third baseman Trent Sukalski greeted Kuhlman with a sharp blast just past Fisher, scoring both Schmidt and Corey Polz (single) and making the score 9-5.

With runners on first and second, Kuhlman struck out the next Bull, ending the Jackson rally.

Each team scored a pair of runs in the seventh, as the Luverne lead increased to 11-5 and Jackson trimmed the margin to 11-7.

Studer drove in two Redbird runs, plating DeBoer and Jared Pick, with a single just over Wachal (first base) when the Bulls' infield was playing up.

Jackson's two runs came on a sharp hit by Caleb Rossow to Fisher, which brought in Wachal (three runs). Blaise Jacobsen also scored on Fisher's throwing error.

Sharp singles by Rob Fodness and Tyler Reisch (RBI), along with a solid RBI single by Pick lifted Luverne's lead to 13-7 in the top of the eighth.

The Bulls rallied with three runs in the bottom of the inning, cutting the margin to 13-10. Back-to-back long sacrifice flys by Jacobsen and Rahe scored Sukalski and Lewis before Wachal hustled home on a dropped third strike.

The Redbirds made a play on a Jackson delayed steal attempt to end the threat when Fisher threw to Sehr, who gunned the ball home to Oye, who tagged out a sliding Schmidt at the plate for the third out.

"We were rallying and it seemed like a good move to try," said Bahr. "But Luverne made a great play."

The Redbirds then tacked on four more runs in the top of the ninth. Studer led off with a walk, Oye was safe on a bunt single and Sehr's RBI single made the count 14-10. A sacrifice fly by Fodness scored Oye and back-to-back RBI singles by DeBoer and Pick closed out the game's scoring.

Oye and Sehr each finished with three hits to lead Luverne's hitting attack, while Studer, Woelber, Fisher, DeBoer and Pick all had two hits. Sehr, Fodness, Fisher, DeBoer and Pick each had a pair of RBIs for the Redbirds.

DeBoer pitched well for Luverne over the game's final three innings, coming on in the seventh with the bases-loaded and no outs. The all-around Luverne athlete struck out the first two batters he faced. DeBoer stayed in command as he finished the game and preserved the Redbird lead, retiring the Bulls in order in the ninth.

Lewis had a pair of hits for Jackson and Sukalski drove in a pair of runs.

In addition to Bosacker, Whisney and Schmidt, Jacobsen, Kirby Johnson and Rossow all pitched for the Bulls.

  R H E

Luv. 101 043 224 -- 17 18 3

Jack. 100 004 230 -- 10 7  5

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