Redbirds rally, beat Jackson to force Game 5
LUVERNE -- Jared Pick and Kirby Johnson locked up in another pitchers' duel Tuesday night, but this time, Pick and his Luverne Redbird teammates prevailed after scratching out two runs in the bottom of the ninth to earn a 3-2 victory in Game 4 of their Region 13C playoff series with the Jackson Bulls.
The best-of-five series is now tied at two games apiece, and Game 5 will be played at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Jackson The winner of that game will advance to the state tournament.
Pick and Johnson each hurled strong games in Game 1 of the series -- a 3-0 Jackson victory. The two were each dealing again Tuesday, and the Redbirds responded in the ninth to get Pick the victory and keep their season going.
"Jared is a stud pitcher; he's our ace," Luverne manager Barry Shelton said after the game. "He pitched another fantastic game, and we did what we had to do to win the ballgame."
Pick went all nine innings, striking out six batters and allowing just six hits, four walks and two runs (one earned). He worked out of several jams to keep the Redbirds close before they finally broke through offensively in the ninth.
With Luverne trailing 2-1 after eight and a half innings, Jeff Sehr reached base on an error to begin the bottom of the ninth. After James Fisher struck out, Tyler Reisch ripped a single to left to give Luverne a pair of runners.
Reisch was the last batter Johnson (8 1/3 IP, seven strikeouts, five hits, two walks, three unearned runs) would face, as Jackson brought in Ryan Rasche to try to close out the victory.
With Rob Fodness at the plate, Sehr and Reisch executed a perfect double steal, and Jackson brought its infield up with runners at second and third and one out.
Fodness hit a groundball to third, and Trent Sukalski's throw to first pulled Kip Wachal off the bag, allowing Fodness to reach and loading the bases for Wyatt Cote.
After fouling off two full-count pitches, Cote rolled a grounder to third. Sukalski charged and bobbled the ball before throwing to the plate, where Sehr slid in safely to tie the game at 2-apiece.
Rasche then struck out Pick for the second out before Tony Sandbulte drew a five-pitch walk to score Reisch with the game-winning run.
"That was a nerve-wracking last inning," Shelton said. "The pressure was on us, and we knew we had to get it done or our season is over."
Luverne (20-11) had taken an early 1-0 lead after the first inning. Sandbulte reached on an error to start the frame, stole second and later scored when Pipestone draftee Matt Oye grounded into a 6-3 double play.
Jackson tied the game with a run in the third, as Andy Wolf reached on a one-out infield single and later scored on Adam Schmidt's two-out double to deep left-center.
Sukalski, who followed Wolf's safety with a single to left, was thrown out at the plate on Schmidt's double, as Fisher (shortstop) made a perfect relay throw to Oye to end the inning with the score 1-1.
Luverne looked to regain the lead in the fourth, as Sehr was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and Fisher blasted a double to the fence in left. However, the Bulls' Caleb Rossow (shortstop) received leftfielder Jordan Lewis' relay throw and gunned out Sehr at the plate to keep the score tied.
Wolf scored again in the fifth to give the Bulls a 2-1 lead. He reached on a fielder's choice, went to second on a throwing error, and scored after a passed ball and a wild pitch.
Jackson had chances to add to its lead, putting seven runners on base during the final four innings. But the Bulls stranded four runners in scoring position, and held onto their slim 2-1 advantage.
Johnson retired 12 consecutive batters from the fourth into the eighth, keeping Luverne off the basepaths and the scoreboard.
The Redbirds did put two runners on in the eighth with one out. Pick coaxed an eight-pitch walk and Sandbulte singled to center, but Johnson struck out Jake Studer and retired Oye on a close play at first to end the threat and keep the Bulls ahead.
Jackson then had Marcus Schultz at third and Wolf at second with one out in the ninth, but Pick retired Sukalski and Lewis on a foulout and groundout, respectively, to set up the bottom of the ninth heroics for the Redbirds.
Schmidt had two hits for Jackson, while Rossow and Johnson each had an infield single to go with the hits by Wolf and Sukalski.
Studer and Sehr each had a single to go with the hits by Fisher, Reisch and Sandbulte for the Redbirds.
R H E
Jackson 001 010 000 -- 2 6 4
Luverne 100 000 002 -- 3 5 4