WINDOM -- Sometimes, the difference between one strike and one ball can spell the difference in a baseball game.
No one will really know what might have happened if the ball called in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s Region 13 amateur game between Hadley and Windom might have changed the outcome if it had been called a strike, but the home-standing Pirates would have liked to find out.
As it was, Buttermakers designated hitter Alex Peterson’s two-out bloop single -- situated perfectly between Windom’s second baseman and right fielder, who just about ran into each other while trying to catch it, scored a run which evened the score at 2-2. Moments later, Max Zwart cracked a screaming three-bagger to right-center field to make the score 3-2. It became 4-2 moments later as Justin Benda stroked an RBI single.
The Windom pitcher, Collin Lovell, thought he had Peterson struck out on the pitch before his bloop single. But of course, he didn’t get the call.
After the game, Lovell took the result in stride.
“I think he (the umpire) thought it was up and out. I thought it was close enough. It’s sometimes how baseball goes,” Lovell said. “It’s frustrating, but that’s sometimes the way baseball works.”
Hadley added another run in the eighth inning and won, 5-2, in the first game of a best-of-three series. Game Two is today (Saturday) at 2 p.m. in Hadley.
The star of Wednesday’s game was Hadley pitcher Jacob Van Dam, who graduated in the spring from Edgerton Southwest Christian High School. Van Dam, a member of the SWC boys basketball team that would have taken a perfect record into the Minnesota state tournament had it not been for the tournament’s cancellation due to COVID-19, nevertheless brought the Buttermakers one step closer to a state amateur baseball berth with his masterful performance against the Pirates.
The lean righthander ran into difficulty in the first inning with his control. In fact, he walked leadoff hitter Sam Huska on four pitches. But he settled down after that, going nine complete innings on a six-hitter, finishing with just that one walk while striking out nine. He struck out the side in the ninth, in fact, taking care of the Pirates 1-2-3.
“In warmups, too, I didn’t establish the fastball,” Van Dam said about his first-inning control issues. “Once I got the rhythm in the second inning it was downhill from there.”
He went mostly with fastballs.
“It’s basically just what’s working,” he said.
Van Dam, who plans to attend Crown College in St. Bonifacius for both basketball and baseball, gave up one Windom run in the first inning on an Alex Fink single, and the second run was scored in the fifth on a hard Alex Borsgard single up the middle which gave Windom a 2-1 lead.
After that, the Pirates’ offensive threats were few and far between.
Lovell, one of four pitchers Windom used in the game (Ross Ackerman got the start), said there are no surprises whenever the Pirates and Buttermakers play.
“We’ve run into these guys a lot. I’d say in the last five years we’ve probably played them three out five (in the playoffs). They always seem to have somebody who shows up and does the job,” he said.
“That’s definitely a big game,” Van Dam testified about the series opener. “And we knew it was a big game coming in, too. ‘Cuz now they have to come back at us.”