WHS BASEBALL: Eagles score three in the 7th to hand Trojans their first losing streakWORTHINGTON — On a beautiful mid-May evening, two fine high school baseball teams squared off at the Middle School Field Saturday and after six innings were locked in a 3-3 tie.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — On a beautiful mid-May evening, two fine high school baseball teams squared off at the Middle School Field Saturday and after six innings were locked in a 3-3 tie.
But, the visiting New Ulm Eagles took advantage of three consecutive walks and effectively manufactured a trio of runs in the top of the seventh frame to earn a 6-3 victory over Worthington in a non-conference game, giving the Trojans their second straight loss after having won nine in a row to start the season.
New Ulm, which was playing its second game of the day, improved to 12-4 for the spring, while WHS became 9-2, despite outhitting the Eagles by a 9-6 margin and only striking out twice the entire game.
“This was a nice win for us,” summed up sixth-year New Ulm head coach Jay Backer, a 1992 NUHS graduate who played for the Eagles with Luverne High School head baseball coach Mike Wenninger (Class of ‘91) a couple of decades ago. “We played Minneapolis DeLaSalle earlier today, with a noon start at Johnson Park in New Ulm and came out with a 3-1 win, so this one completed a good day of baseball for our team.”
After edging the Islanders, the tradition-rich New Ulm squad made the long (nearly two hours) bus ride to Worthington and the Eagles were ready for the first pitch at 6:30 p.m.
Leadoff hitter Judd Davis, a sophomore shortstop who made several incredible plays in the field, drew a walk and was effectively sacrificed to second by senior third baseman Dylan Schreckenberg’s well-placed bunt.
Two batters later, senior first baseman Matt Bergmann delivered a two-out RBI double, scoring Davis with the game’s first run.
A great catch by Worthington senior first baseman Jon Reller ended the inning, but the Eagles had an early, 1-0, lead.
The Trojans were aggressive at the plate in the bottom of the frame, hitting several first pitches —but two of them were caught by senior center fielder Brody Peterson and a third sharply-hit ball was played for a 4-6 force out at second base after WHS senior designated hitter Tommy Hayenga stroked the first of Worthington’s nine hits in the contest.
“Worthington is a good-hitting team, we knew that coming in,” noted Backer. “But our defense is usually solid and our guys can make plays in the field.”
The Eagles scored again in the top of the second, utilizing almost exactly the same formula as they did in the first.
After junior left fielder Jim Holstein reached base on a Worthington error to lead off the inning, sophomore DH Tanner Kluis moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt.
Chase Meyer, New Ulm’s sophomore pitcher, helped his own cause by smacking a first-pitch blast to the left-center field gap, plating Holstein with an RBI double.
Trojan starting pitcher Deron Soderholm, a junior right hander, then struck out the next guy and later —after another Worthington error and a hit batsman loaded the bases —got out of the inning by inducing a ground ball to junior second baseman Tristan Sorenson who made a fine play for the third out.
“Tristan played very well for us in his first-ever varsity start,” praised WHS head coach Stacy Sauerbrei. “He made all the plays in the field and had some good at bats for us, too, getting a hit in the second inning and advancing a runner with a sacrifice fly in the sixth when we scored two runs.”
Reller ripped a leadoff double down the right-field line to begin Worthington’s bottom half of the second, but was thrown out at third on a well-executed fielder’s choice by Davis off the bat of Trojan senior shortstop Tanner Rogers.
Sorenson followed with a sharp single up the middle and WHS had runners on first and second with one out.
But, Meyer registered his first strikeout of the game and Davis made another great play on a ball up the middle and the Eagles escaped without allowing the Trojans to score.
The game settled into a pitcher’s duel over the next three innings, as neither team scored until Worthington plated a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Hits by Hagen and Hayenga produce fifth-inning run for WHS
Bergmann (2-for-5) belted his second double (down the left-field line) of the game to lead off the top of the third and advanced to third on a ground out to Rogers at short. But after Holstein reached first on an infield hit, putting runners at the corners, the Trojans made a pair of good defensive plays to keep the Eagles off the board.
Soderholm fielded Kluis’ attempted suicide-squeeze bunt and tossed to senior catcher Nate Jensen who tagged out Bergmann at the plate.
Sorenson fielded a grounder and tossed to Rogers for a 4-6 force to end the inning.
Meyer then worked the only 1-2-3 inning of the game, including his second strikeout, in the bottom of the third.
Jensen took over for Soderholm on the mound for the Trojans in the fourth. After giving up a pair of one-out walks, he got out of the inning with a fly ball to senior Tyler Verdoorn in left field and by striking out Bergmann to keep the score at 2-0.
“Nate threw a good pitch there,” praised Sauerbrei. “We need him to throw with confidence and he worked through that inning well, striking out a very good hitter, who bats clean up for New Ulm and had hit two doubles his first two times up. That was a big out to end the inning.”
The ever-versatile Blake Rogers, who played the first three innings at third base and then moved to catcher when Jensen took the hill in the fourth, cracked a sharp single up the middle to lead off the bottom of the fourth.
Reller tagged a smash, which looked like it may go through the infield. But, Davis snagged the ball and the Eagles turned a stellar 6-4-3 double play to erase the bases.
“New Ulm’s shortstop made some great plays, including that one,” noted Sauerbrei. “We hit the ball hard twice in a row and had nobody on base after they turned two there.”
A two-out single by junior pinch-hitter Rylan Scholtes was Worthington’s fifth hit of the night, but the Trojans still hadn’t scored after Meyer induced a grounder back to himself to end the inning.
Solid fielding plays by Jensen (1-5 force out on a bunt), Sorensen (infield pop up), Scholtes (ground ball at shortstop) and Reller (nice stretch at first base) helped Jensen pitch a scoreless fifth inning.
Starting with a one-pitch solid single to left-center by junior pinch-hitter Turner Hagen, the Trojans scored in the bottom of the fifth.
Hayenga (2-for-4) blasted a two-out double to deep left field, plating the hustling Hagen all the way from first base, making the score 2-1.
“Those were two good hits by Turner and Tommy,” praised Sauerbrei. “It was nice to get on the board.”
New Ulm, however, got the run back in the top of the sixth.
Jensen gave up a leadoff walk, but then picked the runner of first base with a nifty move.
Senior right fielder Tim Kehren reached first on a Trojan error and stole second on a called third strike on the next hitter.
Connor Stark, New Ulm’s senior catcher, scorched an RBI single into left field, plating Kehren with New Ulm’s third run.
Trojans tie game at 3-3 with two runs in the sixth
Blake Rogers (3-for-4) once again got things rolling for the Trojans in the bottom of sixth, stroking his second hit of the game with a single through the left side.
Reller (1-for-3) followed with a walk and WHS had two on with nobody out.
After the Eagles got an out by catching a foul pop up, Sorenson hit a ball to deep center field, which was caught by Peterson.
WHS courtesy runner Aaron Pavelko tagged up on the play and hustled home with the Trojans’ second run after the throw to third was misplayed.
Reller advanced to second and then Sauerbrei reinserted Pavelko, a speedy junior infielder, as a pinch-runner.
In a unique scenario, Pavelko scored twice in a row when — with two outs — he was moving on contact and Jensen’s fly ball was dropped in left field, allowing Pavelko to race home with the tying run.
“Aaron has good speed and with the courtesy runner rule, we were able to use him twice in a row by entering him as a pinch runner,” explained Sauerbrei. “It worked out well when New Ulm didn’t make the catch for the third out.”
Two batters later, however, the Eagles ended the inning on a 4-6 force out and the score was tied at 3-3 going into the seventh.
Blake Rogers, who has had good success as the Trojans’ closer this season, took the mound for WHS in the top of the seventh.
But, after striking out the first batter, the Eagles drew three consecutive walks, loading the bases.
“That’s not the recipe you want when you’re trying to finish a game,” noted Sauerbrei. “There’s too many ways for them to score when the sacks are full with just one out.”
Pinch-runner Jackson Yackley scooted across with New Ulm’s fourth run on a wild pitch, as Eagle runners moved up to second and third.
A sacrifice fly to center field by Schreckenberg scored pinch-runner Blake Neumann from third and the Eagles had a 5-3 lead with two outs.
Kehren’s two-out RBI single plated Davis with his second run of the game and New Ulm had a 6-3 advantage.
Reller came on and struck out the next Eagle hitter, but the Trojans trailed by three heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Meyer, who only struck two batters all game, while scattering nine hits and yielding just three walks, stayed in the game and induced a fly ball to center and a ground out to himself before Blake Rogers smacked his third hit of the game — a double down the left-field line.
But another fly ball to Peterson in center ended the game and gave the Eagles their second victory of the day.
The four Trojan pitchers combined for six strikeouts with Jensen getting three of them. But a combination of 10 walks and four errors offset the strong WHS hitting performances, which included doubles by Reller, Hayenga and Blake Rogers.
“We hit the ball well,” concluded Sauerbrei. “But we walked seven more guys than they did and had two more errors, so they ended up putting more guys on base, even though we had three more hits.”
Worthington travels to Jackson today for a key Southwest Conference clash with the league-leading Jackson County Central Huskies.
JCC is 7-1 in the conference, while WHS is 6-1. The first pitch at Wacker Field is scheduled for 5 p.m.
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WHS 000 012 0 — 3 9 4