WHS BASEBALL: Luverne hands WHS its first lossWORTHINGTON — Tuesday afternoon in a Southwest Conference contest at the Middle School field, the Luverne Cardinals’ baseball team snapped a five-game losing streak, while handing the Worthington Trojans their first loss of the season.
By: Lance Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Tuesday afternoon in a Southwest Conference contest at the Middle School field, the Luverne Cardinals’ baseball team snapped a five-game losing streak, while handing the Worthington Trojans their first loss of the season.
The Cardinals received a strong pitching performance from Brett Heronimus, which was backed by a solid defensive effort and timely hitting in the 11-3 toppling of the Trojans.
“Good pitching and defense, it makes a world of difference,” LHS head coach Mike Wenninger said. “Our hitting was also better [Thursday]. We were in a slump of slump of slump the last few games. Whether it be our injuries or our mindset, but I also think that playing good teams like Fairmont, Marshall, Worthington, all in the same week is taxing on a team.
“It’s also taxing on our pitching, but Brett Heronimus pitched a great ballgame. He kept the ball down, Worthington’s hitters were aggressive and he mixed his speeds well. Cody Christensen caught a great game, called a great game behind the plate.”
Heronimus hurled a complete-game gem, striking out three Trojan batters and allowing three runs (one earned) on 10 hits and two walks.
“Heronimus pitched a nice game,” WHS head coach Stacy Sauerbrei said of the opposing pitcher. “He threw strikes and kept us off balance. We hit the ball hard at times, but they made the plays behind him.”
The Cardina defense did indeed make plays behind the LHS right-hander. The Cardinals did commit three errors, but never more than one in an inning, which was something that plagued them in Tuesday’s doubleheader losses to Marshall.
“Defense is the most important thing,” Heronimus said. “If they’re making good plays, then it’s easy to pitch. I know that I can just throw strikes and they’ll make the plays behind me.”
In addition to the three strikeouts Heronimus recorded, the LHS defense recorded eight fly-ball outs, nine groundouts and Christensen tossed out a runner trying to steal. Shortstop Skyler Wenninger spearheaded the defense, recording three putouts and three assists, including starting an inning-ending double play in the fourth inning when the Trojans had two runs in and were threatening for more.
“I don’t throw very hard, so I always try to keep them off balance with off-speed pitches,” Heronimus explained of his approach from the rubber. “Curveball, changeup, start them off with different speeds and then come with the fastball so they’re not ready for it. That way, I don’t get many strikeouts, but if I keep them off balance and get them to hit groundballs and fly balls to get out of innings.”
While the LHS defense was making plays to get out of innings, the WHS defense was making errors to extend innings.
A Trojan error allowed the Cardinals to strike in the top of the first when Josh Slieter (2-for-4) plated Nick Rittenhouse, who had reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second on an error.
WHS evened the score in the home half of the inning when Lucas Henning (2-for-3) walked, Tommy Hayenga (1-for-4) singled and Blake Rogers grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Henning when the potential double-play throw to first was wild.
However, the Cardinals busted the game open in the top of the second with five runs on three hits and three Trojan errors.
Jonny Solma (1-for-2) walked, Matt Overgaard (1-for-3) singled and Brady Dinger reached on an error to load the bases to start the inning.
Wyatt Aubert (1-for-3) plated Solma for a 2-1 lead with a single to right followed by WHS starting pitcher Henning recording the inning’s first out.
Christensen (2-for-4) made it 3-1 when he sharply singled up the middle to score Overgaard and two more runs came across when Rittenhouse grounded into a fielder’s choice where no out was recorded and both Dinger and Aubert scored.
Slieter drove in the inning’s final run when his RBI groundout scored Steven Verhey (courtesy running for the LHS catcher) for a 6-1 lead.
“You can see the difference right there,” Heronimus said. “We hit the ball good, but they made a few errors and that does not help out the pitchers because they know they made a good pitch. Right after you make a good pitch and don’t get the out, it’s always hard to come back from that.”
LHS coach Mike Wenninger added, “We took advantage of some Worthington errors and some miscues and that kind of piled on them to give us a lead and maybe take a little bit of the steam out of their game plan.”
It took until the fourth inning for the Trojans to cut the lead to 6-3 when Tanner Rogers led off with a walk, Tyler Hatterman (3-for-4) singled before Jon Reller grounded into a fielder’s choice to give WHS runners on the corners with one out.
Singles by Tyler Verdoorn (2-for-3) and Rylan Scholtes (1-for-2) plated Tanner Rogers and Tristan Sorenson (courtesy running for Reller, who entered to pitch in the fourth inning from first base in relief of Henning).
However, WHS could score no more despite getting singles from Hatterman and Verdoorn in the sixth and a single by Turner Hagen in the seventh, while LHS extended its lead with two runs in the fifth and three more in sixth.
The Cardinal runs in the fifth came when Solma walked and Overgaard reached on a fielder’s choice with the Trojans making an error to place runners on the corners.
Following a steal of second by Overgaard, Aubert grounded out to score Solma and Skyler Wenninger hit a fly ball to right-center that was misplayed to plate it 8-3.
In the sixth, Slieter lined a one-out single to center and scored on a Gunnar Olson slicing double into left-center. Olson scored when Solma reached base on an error and Solma, who reached base in all four of his plate appearances, took second on a wild pitch and scored on the seventh Trojan error of the day after Reed Skattum had singled for the 11-3 final.
“You can’t expect to beat a good team like Luverne when you make that many errors,” Sauerbrei said. “We were not sharp defensively and Luverne took advantage of that. They had timely hits and put the bat on the ball in timely situations. You expect a good team to be able to do that and the score reflects their ability to do that and our inability to do that.”
The win improves LHS to 9-6 overall and 6-5 in the conference. The Cardinals wrap up their conference schedule on Monday when they host Windom.
“It feels good. We were on a little slump here,” Heronimus said of Thursday’s win and the end of the Cardinal losing streak. “We had lost five in a row to good teams, so it’s finally good to get a win and to beat a good team.”
The loss gives WHS its first blemish on both the overall and conference records at 9-1 and 6-1, respectively.
“To expect to go undefeated during the season is a nice goal, but it doesn’t happen to very many teams,” Sauerbrei said. “We just got beat by the better team [Thursday] and that’s the way baseball is sometimes.
“We’ll come back to work [today] and I’m confident that the kids will bounce back from this because they’ve shown that they can respond to adversity. The nice thing about baseball is that we get to play again soon and put this one behind us.”
The Trojans look to put Thursday’s loss behind them Saturday when they host New Ulm. Game time is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
R H E
LHS 150 023 0 — 11 9 3
WHS 100 200 0 — 3 10 7