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State Class A baseball: Windom Area loses a tight one

As the bench watches in anticipation, Windom Area's Andrew Larson is out sliding home in Thursday's Class A state tournament baseball game against St. Agnes.1 / 3
Andy Pfeffer prepares to take a throw at second base to cut down a St. Agnes runner. Windom Area shortstop Brandon Thongvivong is at right backing up the play.2 / 3
As head coach Brad Schlomann watches at left, the Windom Eagles' Brandon Thongvivong is thrown out at third base Thursday at the state Class A baseball tournament in Jordan.3 / 3

JORDAN - Given a second chance in the bottom of the first inning Thursday afternoon, St. Agnes' center fielder Jake Gutzmann reached base and later scored the game's only run as the defending Class A state champion Aggies advanced to today's semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Section 3A champion Windom at the Mini Met.

The Eagles, who advanced to the state high school baseball tournament with consecutive 1-0 wins over Lac qui Parle Valley and Springfield in the sectional playoffs, will play at 10 a.m. today in the consolation round at the Chaska Athletic Park against Section 1A champion Wabasha-Kellogg, the tournament's top-seeded team.

W-K (17-2) was defeated by Section 2A champion BOLD, 13-0, in Thursday's first quarterfinal game.

St. Agnes (14-6), a private school based in St. Paul, will play BOLD (16-6) - the Bird Island, Olivia, Lake Lillian district - in today's semifinals at the Mini Met in Jordan with the first pitch at noon.

Section 5A champion Osakis blanked Section 8A champion Blackduck 10-0 in Thursday's third opening-round game before Section 6A champion New York Mills scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to edge Section 7A champion Floodwood, 6-5.

Osakis (19-2) and New York Mills (20-2) will square off in today's second semifinal (2:30 p.m.) in Jordan.

Blackduck (18-4) tangles with Floodwood (17-3) in today's second consolation game in Chatfield at 12:30 p.m.

The two winners of the consolation games will meet later today (3 p.m.) in Chaska for the consolation championship - an honor earned by Windom's first state-tournament team in 1970 in the one-class system.

"We are hoping to come out and play well (Friday) and have fun," summed up 11th-year WHS head coach Brad Schlomann. "Our goal now is to play two games and end our season by winning a 'doubleheader' - that's what we're calling it and we sure want to play that second game."

Eagles rally three times

Several times Thursday, it looked like the Eagles (13-9) would be playing in today's semifinals rather than in the consolation round.

After the Aggies scored in the first frame, Windom pitching ace Collin Lovell, catching wizard Danny Kneeland and the rest of the Eagles' defense kept St. Agnes off the board.

Meanwhile, the Eagles threatened in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings - but each time WHS was unable to push across a run.

"We had some hits, got runners on base and gave ourselves chances to score," exclaimed Schlomann, who twice waved runners home - but were thrown out both times by the Aggies.

Kneeland, who stroked a one-out single in the top of the first inning and ripped a solid one-out double to the left center gap in the sixth, drew praise from several non-partisan baseball fans in the stands for his "cannon" to second base.

Three times - once in the second, again in the third, and again in the fifth - Kneeland threw out an Aggie attempting to steal second.

"Those were great throws," praised Schlomann about his steady-playing catcher. "St. Agnes stole 69 bases this season and Danny threw them out three times - by a bunch of feet on a couple of them."

Lovell (four strikeouts) and Kneeland teamed up for a "strike'em out, throw'em out" to end the bottom of the third.

"Those two understand baseball so well and really work together to keep guys from stealing." declared Schlomann. "No many teams can run on us when Collin is pitching and Danny is catching."

"Danny just loves playing baseball and does a great job of catching," chimed in Lovell, who faced just nine batters in innings two through four, as the Eagles settled in on the defensive end.

A pair of nice plays by shortstop Brandon Thongvivong and a nifty catch - on a line drive - in center field by Jacob Gotto were among the defensive highlights for Windom during those frames.

Then in the top of the fourth, Thongvivong drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on Lovell's sacrifice bunt.

After a fly out to center for the second out, Windom first baseman Travis Janssen hit a ball to third base, which was mishandled.

Believing that the throw would made to first, Schlomann sent Thongvivong to the plate.

But the error changed the situation.

Unable to throw to first, St. Agnes' third baseman Joe Kleve went after Thongvivong instead - catching him in the "hot box" - and the Aggies recorded the inning's third out, completing several throws.

"I'd do that the same every time," explained Schlomann. "We had two outs, so the throw was going to first. If it's on time, the inning is over. If it's not, Travis is safe and Brandon scores. But the error changed what happened."

Then in the the top of the fifth, the Eagles came even closer.

Freshman third baseman Sam Huska stroked a single into right field and reached second on a wild pitch.

Schlomann inserted speedy Andrew Larson, one of the team's best base runners to pinch run for Huska.

With a runner on second and nobody out, Windom left fielder Jacob Johnson delivered, driving a sharp single into center field.

Schlomann waved Larson home, but the hard-running junior stumbled just a bit over third base and Gutzmann's throw to the plate was perfect, just beating the sliding Larson.

"It was close," said Schlomann. "They needed to make a perfect play and they did."

Johnson, who advanced to second on the throw home, was later picked off by a great move by Aggie's pitcher Jack Fossand.

Now the bases were clear with two outs. Fossand then recorded his only strikeout of the game and the Eagles' were retired - again - without scoring.

Aggies score in first, fill the bases in the fifth

Kneeland's double gave Eagle fans some excitement in the sixth, but a long fly ball off the bat of Thongvivong was caught by Gutzmann and an infield pop up ended the frame.

Huska and Johnson drew back-to-back two-out walks in the top of the seventh, but an infield grounder for a force at second (shortstop to second) ended the game.

It was the fourth consecutive state tournament shutout victory for the Aggies, who blanked all three opponents during their 2012 championship run.

St. Anges scored its run in the bottom of the first inning.

Gutzmann, who had a foul pop up dropped by Kneeland, was beaned by Lovell - one of three in the game for the Aggies. He stole second and advanced to third on a groundout to second before scoring on an RBI single by St. Agnes' designatd hitter Joe McDonald.

The Aggies' only other scoring threat came in the bottom of the fifth.

Two singles and two walks (Kneeland tossed out the first runner) loaded the bases.

But a clutch strikeout by Lovell and a great play at first base by Janssen ended the frame without a St. Angnes run.

"That was a nice play by Travis," praised Schlomann. "The ball was hit hard, about waist-high and Travis backhanded it and raced to the bag for the third out."

Janssen had a one-out single for the Eagles in the top of the second, while Kneeland (2-for-3), Huska and Johnson had Windom's other hits.

"Overall, we played well," concluded Schlomann. "We just didn't get enough hits, which makes us have to play with a very small margin of error.

"We had a great following here with lots of past players, coaches and fans. I believe that we made our past teams and our community proud. Most importantly, our players should be proud of how they performed in this game and throughout what has been a great season for us."


Windom 000 000 0 - 0 5 1

St. Agnes 100 000 X - 1 5 1