PREP BASEBALL: PA’s Ossefoort steals home for 2-1 win over WHS, Arrows fall to NU 4-3 in extrasNEW ULM — Guts. It takes guts, or as some call it, intestinal fortitude, to execute the play the sixth-seeded Pipestone Area Arrows’ baseball team used to score the eventual game-winning run in the top of the seventh inning, ending the No. 3-seed Worthington Trojans’ season in a 2-1 decision in the Section 3AA playoff game at Johnson Park Saturday afternoon.
By: Lance Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
NEW ULM — Guts.
It takes guts, or as some call it, intestinal fortitude, to execute the play the sixth-seeded Pipestone Area Arrows’ baseball team used to score the eventual game-winning run in the top of the seventh inning, ending the No. 3-seed Worthington Trojans’ season in a 2-1 decision in the Section 3AA playoff game at Johnson Park Saturday afternoon.
Holding a 1-0 lead entering the final inning, the Arrows, who had manufactured the game’s lone run up to that point in the second inning, had their lead-off batter reach first on a throwing error after swinging at strike three in the dirt.
Alex Ossefoort was that batter and he moved to third base following a sacrifice bunt by Eric Buffington and a wild pitch.
With two outs and a 1-1 count on Austin Appel, PA head coach Rick Zollner put on the play that was the difference maker, as he signaled for Ossefoort to steal home with Trojan pitcher Lucas Henning working out of the windup.
“It came up a couple of times during the season and it worked perfect,” Zollner said of the decision to send the runner home. “They had a left hander that wasn’t paying much attention to the runner on third.”
Henning’s pitch was delivered for strike two, but the oncoming Ossefoort caught the Trojans off guard and no play was made at the plate, as the Arrows gained the key insurance run.
“We ran it against Redwood earlier in the year when we were playing them and I knew I could make it on the windup,” Ossefoort said. “Coach saw it; I saw it so we put it on and hoped for the best.”
The Arrows got what they hoped for as the speedy junior outfielder crossed home with no tag applied and a two-run cushion.
“Alex is one of the fastest kid’s I’ve ever seen from around Pipestone,” Zollner said. “It worked to perfection and they kind of panicked a bit. That’s the key to that play.”
Henning, who struck out 13 batters and scattered four hits and one walk, thought the Arrows might be up to something in that final frame.
“I glanced over at him a couple of pitches before and noticed he had a pretty good lead,” Henning said. “But I didn’t change anything and give credit to Ossefoort. He got a good jump and made it home.”
The Trojans, who outhit the Arrows 7-4, rallied for a run in the last half inning and had runners on first and third with two outs, but PA starting pitcher Austin Evans induced a ground-ball fielder’s choice to end the contest. The win sent the Arrows into the next round matchup with New Ulm (4-1 win over St. James in the day’s first game).
WHS, which had a hit in every inning except the sixth and two hits in the second, never came up with a timely knock (10 runners left on base) to put them on the scoreboard until the seventh.
“We didn’t come through with the clutch hits like we normally would,” Trojan head coach Stacy Sauerbrei said. “You can’t win with zero runs and that was the case [Saturday].
“It’s real tough to come back from two runs, especially when they got the second run in the top half of the seventh.”
WHS’s run in the seventh came after loading the bases with one out as Henning walked, Tommy Hayenga (1-for-4) singled and Blake Rogers (1-for-3) walked. Rylan Scholtes plated Henning to cut the margin to 2-1 with a sacrifice fly to right field, which also moved Hayenga up to third.
However, Evans, who had done time after time all game, recorded the final out with runners aboard to end the game.
“The defense was great behind me,” Evans said. “They fielded the ball great. They kept telling me to bear down and just keep fighting. ‘Grind it out’ like Coach Zollner would say. We did that really well.”
The PA defense was strong all day, as it committed no errors in the game with WHS, and also received a diving play near the warning track in left field by Ossefoort to rob Nate Jensen of an extra-base hit for the first out in the bottom of the fifth and a good charging-in play by Matt Haraldson at third base in the bottom of the sixth to put out Tanner Rogers for that inning’s first out.
Evans knew that having such a solid fielding effort behind him was huge in deciding the game.
“Worthington hit the ball right away and we knew from the get-go that they would,” Evans said. “They’ve done it all year and we knew that we would have to play great defense and we did when we needed to.
“Top to bottom, there are no holes in Worthington’s lineup. I did what I could and the defense was solid behind me the whole game.”
Henning paced the Trojans at the plate as he reached base in all four plate appearances and finished 2-for-2 with a first-inning double and two walks.
“We had higher expectations, but Pipestone played pretty good ball,” Henning said. “We didn’t hit the ball where we wanted to [Saturday].”
Tyler Verdoorn (1-for-4) and Jon Reller (1-for-3) each singled in the second inning, but Evans recorded two of his three strikeouts to escape the frame.
“I have to tip my cap to Pipestone,” Sauerbrei said. “They played really well. I thought we hit the ball hard, but they made the plays defensively.
“They had an answer for everything. Austin Evans was dynamite on the mound. He was very composed with had a good fastball and a strong curveball.”
Tanner Rogers (1-for-3) hit a one-out double for WHS in the fourth, but was stranded at second, while the Trojans loaded the bases in the fifth as Henning walked, Blake Rogers singled and Scholtes walked, but Evans worked his way out of the frame.
The Arrows manufactured the game’s first run in the second inning when Brady Bos (1-for-3) singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ossefoort. Gunnar Manderscheid (1-for-3) plated Bos from second with a two-out single to center for the early lead
PA’s other hit came from Damian Skyberg (1-for-3) in the third.
The loss ended the Trojans 2012 season with a record of 13-4 and was the final game in a WHS uniform for Eric Koob, Hayenga, Jensen, Henning, Verdoorn, Reller and Tanner Rogers.
“Lucas was sharp. He was the typical competitor out there. I’m sure that it’s real disappointing for him and for everybody on the team,” Sauerbrei said. “The seniors have had a great career. If you are never disappointed about anything, then that means you haven’t poured your heart into.
“These guys have really poured their hearts into baseball since they were little kids. It’s tough for them right now, but they’ll be all right. The summer season is coming up and they’ll get a chance to play again.”
Although the season ended with a first-round playoff loss, the Trojans did bring the Southwest Conference championship back to Worthington.
“Any time you win the Southwest Conference championship, it’s a good season,” Henning said. “There are a lot of good teams and it was nice to get it back in Worthington.”
The Arrows moved to 9-11 with the opening-round win and advanced to tangle with the second-seeded New Ulm Eagles in the next game.
R H E
PA 010 000 1 — 2 4 0
WHS 000 000 1 — 1 7 2
New Ulm 4, PA 3 (9 inn.)
NEW ULM — The day’s finale from Johnson Park proved to be another thrilling contest as the Arrows rallied from down 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh before allowing the equalizing run in that inning and the game-winner to the host Eagles in the home half of the ninth.
“Great high-school baseball game,” New Ulm head coach Jay Backer said. “Pipestone played a lot better than a six-seed for their two games of baseball. They gave us everything they had, but fortunately, we were the home team and it’s nice to be the home team in a game like that.”
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, NU (17-5) scored the winner when Tim Kehren (3-for-5) scored as Connor Stark reached on a fielder’s choice and the Arrows committed a rare error in the day’s action.
“Baseball is full of adversity and you can’t beat yourself up over trying to make a play,” Zollner said.
The Arrows, who were shut down by Eagles’ starting pitcher Tanner Kluis through the first four innings, got their first hits and runs of the nightcap in the fifth when Eric Buffington (1-for-4) and Gunnar Manderscheid (2-for-3) hit back-to-back doubles for the first Arrows’ run and Manderscheid scored on a groundout to tie the game at 2-2.
The Eagles scored the game’s first run in the second and added another run in the fourth when Chase Meyer (2-for-4) hit one-out singles in both frames and Judd Davis (3-for-5) plated Meyer both times with one-out RBI hits.
Matt Haraldson, PA’s starting pitcher in the nightcap, only allowed those two blemishes early and matched Kluis through five innings before the Arrows got him the lead in the sixth.
“We got great pitching and the boys battled,” Zollner said. “How many times did we make one pitch and get a couple outs or get out of a big inning?”
PA also received timely double-play balls in contest as it turned two in the second and fourth innings to squash any possible big innings by NU.
The Arrows got the go-ahead run in the sixth when Austin Evans (1-for-4) doubled to chase Kluis from the game. Brody Peterson came on in relief for the hosts and walked the bases full before forcing Evans home with a walk to Manderscheid to give PA a 3-2 edge.
However, Zollner felt that his squad could’ve come out of that inning with an even bigger lead.
“Baseball’s a game of hindsight – 20/20 is always perfect vision,” the Arrows’ coach said. “If we could do it over, we probably would’ve squeezed in the sixth to get another crooked number up and have a two-run lead.”
Meanwhile, Haraldson kept the Arrows out front by working a perfect inning in the home half of the sixth.
Haraldson recorded the first out in the seventh before Matt Bergmann (1-for-4) and Stark (1-for-5) chased the PA starter from the game with consecutive doubles to tie the contest at 3-3.
“It was a really good battle,” Haraldson said. “It was a brawl out there. We both played really good games, but we just came up a little short.”
Evans, the Arrows starter in the game with WHS, returned to the mound and kept the game in check before the ninth-inning rally by the hosts to get saddled with the tough-luck loss.
“Credit to Evans, he pitched well in both games,” Backer said. “That kid was gutty out there for Pipestone.”
PA had a chance to take a lead in the top half of the eighth when Brady Bos (1-for-4) singled and was stranded at second following a sacrifice bunt by Alex Ossefoort. The Arrows also threatened in the ninth when Manderscheid led off with a single, but Jaymes Zollner (pinch running for Manderscheid) was stranded at second following a sacrifice bunt by Josh Mabon.
NU then plated the winner in the home half of the ninth, ending PA’s hopes of upsetting its second team of the day.
“We brought the intensity,” Haraldson said. “We brought a lot more intensity in these two games than we had all year. We had a good season and that was our best weekend all season.”
The loss ended the Arrows’ season with a 9-12 record, but the squad was trending in the right direction at the right time.
“That’s what you want to do, play your best baseball at the end of the season and we came out and played two very good games against two good teams,” Zollner said.
“I give Pipestone a lot a credit,” Backer said. “They came in here ready to play baseball. To knock off Worthington and then to give New Ulm a battle, it’s a tough way to end their season, but they’ve got to keep their head’s high. I was very impressed with their ballclub and they are very well coached.”
R H E
PA 000 021 000 — 3 6 2
NU 010 100 101 — 4 12 1