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Bulls bow out of state tourney

CHASKA -- Scott Bahr said it was one of the most frustrating losses in his 20-year career as coach of the Jackson amateur baseball team.

After a premature victory celebration in the bottom of the ninth, the Bulls suffered a disheartening 6-2 loss to New London-Spicer (13-14) in 13 innings Sunday in the first round of the state tournament.

With two outs and runners on second and third base in the bottom of the ninth inning, Jackson's Kody Johnson, a draftee from Windom, hit a slow ground ball down the third-base line.

NL-S third baseman Scott Rambow sprinted in, barehanded the ball and fired a throw that sailed high over the first baseman as Johnson slid safely into the bag.

Jackson's players exploded out of the dugout toward home plate to meet Andy Wolf, who appeared to have scored the game-winning run. Rambow bowed his head and began walking off the field.

Moments later, the home-plate umpire called Johnson's grounder foul.

After a lengthy argument from Bahr and some Jackson players, Johnson returned to the batter's box and flied out of left field to end the inning.

"We had it won; I was standing right there," Bahr said. "Honestly, (Rambow) told me, too. He came up throwing, we won the ballgame, and he started walking off the field.

"It's right up there as one of the toughest losses. It was a bad call, but you can't dwell on the umpires because we only had six hits, and you have to have more than six hits."

The Bulls had just two hits -- a bloop single by Johnson in the first and an infield single by Kip Wachal in the sixth -- through six innings and trailed 1-0. Jackson starter Tom Hady allowed a solo home run to the second batter he faced but scattered four hits and held the Twins scoreless until he was relieved after the sixth inning.

Trent Sukalski delivered Jackson's third hit of the game to lead off the bottom of the seventh and advanced to second on Caleb Rossow's sacrifice bunt. After Wolf grounded out to third, Jon Hummel laced the first pitch of his at-bat into the left-center gap for an RBI double to tie the game and give Jackson its first hit with runners in scoring position.

Ryan Rasche faced the minimum number of batters over the next four innings but allowed a broken-bat, RBI blooper with two outs in the 11th inning that gave NL-S a 2-1 lead.

Sukalski drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the inning, and Rossow followed with a grounder to third. Rambow's throw to second was on target, but, while possibly trying to hurry his throw in order to turn a game-ending double play, NL-S second baseman Ben Kulset let the ball glance off his glove and into center field, allowing runners to reach first and third.

Wolf, who was 0-for-5 entering the inning, followed with an RBI single to tie the game, but he and Rossow were stranded in scoring position.

After allowing back-to-back hits to put runners on second and third with no outs in the top of the 12th, Rasche was relieved by Luverne draftee Jared Pick, who induced two weak grounders back to the mound and another to third to escape the jam.

"Tommy went out and did everything we asked him to do, and then we got the ball to Ryan just like we wanted to," Bahr said. "And, Jared Pick, holy smokes. Second and third with nobody out, and he gets us out of the inning? I mean, what more do you want? The pitchers just got it done."

The offense didn't.

Wachal led off the bottom of the 12th with a single and advanced to second on Blaise Jacobsen's sacrifice bunt. But consecutive fly-outs ended the inning.

Jackson left 14 runners on base -- 10 in scoring position -- and went just 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Still, phenomenal pitching and flawless defense kept the Bulls in the game. But Jackson's lone error proved costly.

Pick induced back-to-back groundouts to start the 13th inning but then issued back-to-back walks. With runners on first and second and two outs, Pick got Jeremy Dirksen to hit a weak grounder down the third-base line. Pick sprinted toward the line, barehanded the ball, spun around and fired wildly to first base.

The error allowed the go-ahead run to score and put runners on second and third for the Twins' Mike Danielson, who followed with an RBI single. After a walk, Brian Pieh hit a two-run single down the right-field line to give NL-S a four-run lead.

Jackson went down in order in the bottom of the 13th.

"We could have done a few things differently, I'm sure, but you have to tip your hat to the other team and come back and try again next year," Bahr said. "I'm proud of our guys. They competed, and they came back three times from being behind.

"We made a good run, and I feel bad for our guys because a lot of people put a lot of hard work in there and it ended a little bit too soon."

Wolf went 2-for-7 with an RBI, Wachal went 2-for-5, and Sukalski went 1-for-5 with two runs for Jackson (15-14).


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