WORTHINGTON -- Logically, it might not have made any sense that the Marshall Orange Junior Legion baseball team defeated Worthington Monday night, in Worthington.
But that’s baseball. You never know what you’re going to get.
Over the weekend, the Worthington teen-age club played very good baseball en route to a third-place finish in an Alexandria tournament. They entered Monday’s game missing four starters -- two from injury, and two who were attending church camp. Even still, it was a surprise that the locals lost to the Orange, which hadn’t won a game all season before trimming Worthington 3-2 and stranding three Worthington runners on base in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The home team, which out-hit Marshall 7-2 in the game, had its chances throughout the contest. But base-running mistakes hurt. Then came the bottom of the seventh.
The first Worthington batter of the inning, Blake Ahrensdorff, bounced out to third base. But the second, Mike Magana, coaxed a walk from Orange starter and finisher Zach Allen. Next, Damon Schutz hit a ground ball to shortstop that forced Magana out at second base.
Schutz stole second base, putting a runner in scoring position for Danny Pavelko, who walked. Next up, Tate Gaul hit a routine ground ball to shortstop but reached base by getting out of the box quickly and running hard.
With the bases loaded and two down, Worthington’s Tommy Lais drilled a hard line drive past third base, but foul. With the count at 1-2, Allen threw a good curveball that Lais whiffed at, and the game was over.
The loss dropped Worthington to 7-1 in league play and 17-7 overall. On Saturday, the team will return to tournament play, starting with an 11:30 a.m. game against Humboldt-Hartford, S.D., in Brandon, S.D. Then next Wednesday, they’ll travel to Marshall to determine the league championship.
On Monday, Marshall erased two Worthington runners from the basepaths, killing potential rallies.
“I said at the beginning of the season that baserunning will win us games and baserunning will lose us games. And tonight baserunning lost us a game,” said head coach TD Hostikka. “I said it tonight when we stretched. If you just go through the motions with these guys, that’s not going to work.”
Schutz worked the first three and one-third innings on the mound for the locals, and he pitched well. Pavelko pitched the rest of the way and also pitched well.
But Allen pitched well, too, going the distance.
“He threw a lot slower than what we saw all weekend long. Credit to them,” said Hostikka.
Worthington’s only runs off Allen came in the bottom of the sixth inning. Schutz walked to start the inning, stole second base and scored on a Pavelko bunt single when a throw was mishandled at first base. Gaul singled to put runners on first and third base. But two outs were then made on an infield pop-up as Gaul was doubled off first. Michael Iverson drove in the second run of the inning on a hard double off the left-centerfield fence.
There wasn’t much to say for Worthington’s offense outside the sixth.
Things went so much better, however, last weekend. The team beat Alexandria Red 3-1 in its opener on a combined no-hitter by Ahrensdorff and Iverson (the first-round game was limited to five innings due to rain).
Then came a 4-2 victory over Elk River, which avenged a 14-1 loss to the same team a week earlier. Worthington scored all four of its runs in the first inning and Iverson pitched a complete game.
Following a 9-5 loss to New Ulm, Worthington won the third-place game 6-4 over Alexandria Black in eight innings. Down 3-1 in the sixth, Worthington’s Coy Turner delivered a clutch pinch hit to tie the game. In the top of the eighth, Worthington added three more runs.
“They played high-caliber baseball on the weekend,” said Hostikka.
On Monday, not so much. But there’s still plenty of baseball remaining this summer.
“I’d rather it be now instead of the first or second round in the playoffs,” said the coach. “Maybe this will be the game that gets us going -- a reminder not to take any game for granted.”