VFW baseball: Post 3958 heats up
PIPESTONE — The Worthington VFW Post 3958 baseball team did what it set out to do over the weekend: advance to districts.
“I’m proud of the way they stepped up and hit the ball after struggling in the first game,” Post 3958 coach TD Hostikka said. “And we got great pitching all weekend.”
A basehit by Nate Russell scored Eli Gaul in the fourth inning to give second-seeded Worthington a 1-0 lead over No. 3 Marshall Orange in its first game of the weekend.
The lead disappeared, however, as Marshall put up single runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to capture the 2-1 pitcher’s duel.
Jed Jewett threw a complete game for Post 3958. He allowed two runs on four hits and struck out four. Russell was 1-for-3 with an RBI at the plate.
The loss put Worthington in an elimination game against fourth-seeded Luverne later Saturday afternoon, and Post 3958 found the offense it had been missing in Game 1.
Worthington finished with 10 hits while Luverne managed only two off of Russell, who pitched a complete game in the 10-0 run-rule win for Post 3958.
The true awakening of the Worthington bats came in the second inning when it hung a 7-spot. Three more in the bottom of the fifth ended Luverne’s season and pushed 3958 into action on Sunday.
Russell had a big game. He allowed just two hits and struck out one while facing only 18 batters in the mound victory. He also went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored.
“Nate really, really performed at the plate for us this weekend,” Hostikka said. “He also pitched a complete game and only gave up two hits and faced 18 batters. That’s clutch.”
Mason Ellenbecker added a 2-for-3 showing that included three RBIs and Gaul was 2-for-3 with a run scored. Tucker Sorenson had a double, two RBIs and a run scored.
In the sub-district championship early on Sunday, Marshall Orange pushed top-seeded Pipestone to the brink, but in the end Pipestone came away with a 3-2 victory in nine innings to earn the first spot in the district tournament. It also set up a rematch between Worthington and Marshall Orange.
It was far from being the prettiest game ever as the two teams combined to commit 10 errors. But Worthington did more with its chances and came from behind twice to take a 12-7 win and advance.
“We just got too ahead of ourselves,” Hostikka said of the miscues. “But we put the ball in play and the fact they had to play first probably helped. They were tired and we took advantage of that.”
Marshall jumped on the board early, scoring three runs in the top of the first to put Post 3958 in a big hole. After Brian Morales threw a scoreless second, however, the team settled down and it showed at the plate.
Worthington scored five runs to grab the lead. Orange eventually got it back with two runs in both the fifth and the sixth, but a 7-6 deficit disappeared quickly in the bottom of the sixth when Post 3958 scored six to take the lead for good.
Morales went five innings and allowed two earned runs on six hits while fanning four. Easton Sauerbrei got the win in relief, allowing two earned on one hit and striking out two over two innings of work.
Russell continued his tear, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs scored and three stolen bases. Sauerbrei was 2-for-3 with three driven in and a run. Gaul had a pair of runs and two stolen bases.
A big part of the team’s success, according to Hostikka, was the ability of some of his role players to step up in the absence of some of the regulars in the lineup.
“Eli Gaul worked his tail off behind the plate,” he said. “He caught every inning for us because I don’t have a third catcher. He did a great job. Mason Ellenbecker had four hits and made some nice plays in the outfield as well. That was big for us.”
Worthington, Pipestone, Marshall Blue and Sacred Heart will square off for a spot at state next weekend in Marshall. Time and day for those games have not yet been set.
“When the season started there were 278 VFW teams in the state and there are only 32 left,” Hostikka said. “You always hear about making the final four, but if we win next weekend we’re in the final eight. That’s pretty impressive.”
R H E
Orange 000 011 0 — 2 4 0
Worth. 000 100 0 — 1 3 1
R H E
Luverne 000 00 — 0 2 2
Worth. 070 03 — 10 10 1
R H E
Orange 300 022 0 — 7 7 5
Worth. 051 006 x — 12 10 5