NEW ULM -- After failing to capitalize on several chances against Sleepy Eye Friday morning, Worthington's American Legion baseball team went on the attack early against Fairmont Friday night in New Ulm, and as a result Post 5 stayed alive to compete again today in the Division I, District 2 tournament.
Worthington, frustrated after a 3-2 setback against Sleepy Eye in which 13 of its runners were left stranded, swung the bats early and well against Fairmont, earning a 7-5 victory.
Today in a 4 p.m. contest in New Ulm, Worthington will play against the loser of a 1 p.m. game between Sleepy Eye and New Ulm, two teams that have yet to lose a game in the double-elimination event.
Worthington 7, Fairmont 5
Post 5's Lucas Henning, who struck out with nobody out and runners on first and second base in the ninth inning of the first game -- an inning where his team failed to score to lose by a run -- was determined to come through in the clutch if he got the chance against Fairmont Post 36.
He did. Twice.
In the bottom of the sixth inning with two out and the bases loaded, Henning scorched a liner at shortstop Levi Becker that Becker couldn't handle, and a run scored to stretch Post 5's lead from 5-4 to 6-4. Then in the bottom of the eighth with Post 5 holding on to a tenuous 6-5 lead, Henning -- again with two outs -- hit a hard single to right field scoring A.J. Hayenga with an insurance run.
Henning, who hits in the No. 4 spot, said that he was prepared to bunt late in that first game, to move two runners in scoring position, if called upon. But he actually didn't remember bunting all season.
He must have been glad to swing away each time in the second game of the day.
"Now we've got a little momentum. I hope it carries into tomorrow," he said Friday night.
Worthington got a nifty pitching performance from lefty starter Nate Ray, who bent but didn't break in eight and two-thirds innings of work. Ray allowed 14 hits and five runs, but he got the outs when he needed them. Logan Rogers replaced Ray with one out to go in the ninth inning and with Fairmont runners on first and second base. He got catcher Andy Reiter to pop up to first baseman Ryan Lee, earning the save.
Righthanded Fairmont starter Jay Ruen battled to the end and was the losing pitcher.
At the plate, Worthington scored in five of the eight innings it batted in, getting single runs in every inning but the third where Tyler Hatterman led off with a triple over the third base line. Singles by Deron Soderholm and Tristan Sorenson, and a double by designated hitter Blake Rogers helped bring three runs home in the inning.
Worthington Post 5 coach Todd Rogers' message at the start of the Fairmont game was to swing the bats.
"I told 'em we gotta be aggressive at the plate," he said. "Gotta hit the ball."
Leadoff hitter Hayenga, Sorenson and Henning all had two hits to lead the Worthington hitters.
R H E
Fairmont 101 110 010 -- 5 14 2
Worthington 130 101 01x -- 7 11 3
Sleepy Eye 3, Worthington 2
Decision-making is big in baseball. Probably no decision was bigger in Post 5's district tournament game with Sleepy Eye Post 7 Friday morning than the one that occurred in the bottom of the ninth inning with Post 5 at bat.
With Worthington trailing 3-2 and needing a run to keep the game going, Post 5 put runners on first and second base with nobody out, on a walk to Soderholm and a hard single to leftfield from Blake Rogers. Henning could have bunted to put two runners in scoring position or he could do what most No. 4 hitters might do and swing away.
Post 5 coach Todd Rogers had him swing away. But Henning struck out. When the next hitter, Tyler Hatterman, grounded out to first and the next hitter, Ryan Lee, lined out to center, the game was over.
"I thought, he's struggling, he's gonna get a base hit. He's due," coach Rogers said later about Henning's at bat. "I should have had him bunt."
The game's end result spoiled an outstanding pitching performance by Soderholm. The lanky righthander went the distance on the mound, allowing just five Sleepy Eye hits, with one walk and four strikeouts. The only real offensive threat Post 7 had against Soderholm was in the third inning when it plated three runs to break a scoreless tie.
The inning started on a strikeout pitch that skidded past the catcher and allowed the baserunner to reach. The next hitter reached on a fielder's choice as a force-out attempt at second base was late. With runners on first and second, a grounder was hit to Henning at third. But Henning threw wildly past second base, allowing a run to score. The next hitter, Brandon Helget, lined a base hit to score two more.
Neither team scored again until Worthington tallied two in the seventh. Alex Purdy started things off by being hit by a pitch -- for the second time in the game. Rogers singled and Hayenga reached when his bunt was thrown wildly to third base, loading the bases with nobody out. Soderholm followed with a line shot off the glove of third baseman Matt Schroepfer, scoring one and keeping the bases full.
Sleepy Eye starting pitcher Mike Hirsch was lifted at that point in favor of Mitch Neid, who after getting the next two hitters out without any further damage, hit Hatterman with a pitch to force in the second run.
Worthington got a runner to third base in the eighth, stranding him. Two more runners left on base in the ninth inning were numbers 12 and 13 for the game.
"You gotta score them guys," coach Rogers said about the 13 stranded base runners. "You just score a couple of them..."
R H E
SE 003 000 000 -- 3 5 3
Wor 000 000 200 -- 2 6 1