HERON LAKE -- The winning run was scored in the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Lakefield Horned Frogs emerged with a 4-3 amateur baseball victory over the Worthington Cubs Wednesday night in Heron Lake.
“With two outs, we just wanted to try something,” said Frogs manager Brent Christopher.
Lakefield scored three runs in the sixth inning to break open a scoreless game, but the Cubs rallied with three runs in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of the frame, Lakefield’s Trevon Bargfrede straddled second base with two outs against Worthington relief pitcher Turner Rogers when he took off for third.
Worthington catcher Eli Gaul quickly fired to third base, but the throw was low and skipped away, allowing Bargfrede to score.
In two previous games leading up to Wednesday’s contest on a hot, sun-bathed evening, the Horned Frogs sustained losses. Worthington, coming off a one-run victory over Jackson over the weekend, is now 1-2 this summer -- though the first two games were considered exhibition games as Minnesota struggled to put the coronavirus pandemic in the rear-view mirror.
Despite the fact that a win was accomplished Wednesday, Christopher said the Frogs are still trying to ramp up to speed. Because of a late start and few preseason practice opportunities, he said the team still needs to improve.
“It was just a week ago we were able to actually start practicing on a field,” Christopher said. “It’s been a slow season. Everything’s been out of whack. … Then, all of a sudden they say you can play games and you’re supposed to be ready to go.
“Our hitting’s not close to where it needs to be yet.”
Lakefield collected just four hits off Worthington pitchers Adam Russell and the left-hander, Rogers. For Russell, it was a good outing. In five and one-third innings, he held the Frogs scoreless before giving way to Rogers. The sturdy right-hander allowed two hits, walked three and struck out four.
“Less balls. Less pitches,” Russell summed up his performance after the game. In his first outing against Windom, he struggled to gain his control.
But when Russell has his control, he can be difficult to score upon. He proved it again on Wednesday, and with the game over and the Cubs engaging again in a competitive game, he looked to the future with optimism.
“We have a lot of potential. All this covid stuff screwed things up. Give us a couple of games and we’re going to be good. Hopefully we can get to the playoffs,” he said.
Russell left the pitcher’s mound in favor of Rogers with one out in the sixth inning and Horned Frogs straddling first and second base. Rogers struck out the first hitter he faced, but Phil Pronk rapped a hard line-drive single into center-field in front of a diving Danny Pavelko to score one. An infield error allowed the second run to score, and a passed ball allowed the third run of the inning to cross the plate.
But when the Cubs came to bat in the seventh against Pronk, who came on to relieve Bargfrede in the fourth, they were juiced. Pavelko led off with a single, and Tyler Linder reached on an infield hit. Brayden Donkersloot then singled, and when an error was made on the play, Worthington scored its first run. Tate Gaul singled next to load the bases. The next hitter, Tate’s brother Eli, stroked an apparent single to right field. But Linder was slow in getting off third base, and after a throw came in, he slid home and was declared out.
Nevertheless, after a strikeout, a bloop single off the bat of Will Brandner scored two more runs to tie the game at 3-3.
The Cubs were predictably disappointed at losing the game in the bottom of the seventh, but player-manager Ryan Swanson used the tight battle as another clue that there are good things ahead.
“We’re gonna compete, no matter who we play,” he said. “Still improving. We came back and almost won. We positioned ourselves to win. It just didn’t happen.”
The Cubs return to action Sunday at Heron Lake with scheduled games against Mountain Lake and Heron Lake beginning at 1 p.m. Lakefield is planning an outing Sunday in Northrop to play Fairmont.