WORTHINGTON -- They may have been forgiven for taking it easy Thursday night when the Sub-State 2, Division I American Legion playoffs are just around the corner. But Post 5 looked sharp in its regular season home game with Sleepy Eye, winning 14-8.
Worthington starting pitcher Michael Iverson battled a migraine and struggled early in giving up three first inning runs. But he settled down after that, and the Worthington bats took care of the rest. After just two innings, Post 5 led 6-3. The locals collected 10 hits in all and struck out just two times, and second baseman Tate Gaul made a spectacular diving catch.
Iverson went four innings, walking two of the first three hitters he faced but allowing just three hits during his stint, with six strikeouts. Pitchers Jake Brandner and Damon Schutz hurled the final three innings between them.
“We played well. Going into the playoffs, this is the kind of game you want to have. We had some stellar defensive plays,” said head coach Tim Gaul. “I think right now we’re playing very good team baseball.”
Worthington (12-8) will open double-elimination sub-state competition on Wednesday in Essig against Faribault. The game, which begins at 4 p.m., will match seeds four (Worthington) and five.
“Should be a very competitive game,” said Coach Gaul, referencing the seeding.
On Thursday, Worthington bounced back from a three-run Sleepy Eye first with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame. Danny Pavelko led off with a single and scored on a one-out single by Marshall Wagner. Two more RBI singles were delivered by Iverson and Brandner.
Wagner’s summer with the Legionnaires has been a meaningful one. An outstanding hitter who batted over .500 in the spring with Adrian High School, he led the Dragons to the state Class A tournament. This summer, he’s rekindling friendships with old Worthington teammates.
“Back in March, Tate came up to me because I told him we weren’t going to have a (Legion) team in Adrian this summer,” he said. “In third grade through fifth grade, I played summer ball with (Worthington). … It’s fun. They’ve got a lot of energy. They hit the ball like crazy. They win. I always love doing that.”
In the fall, Wagner will begin attending South Dakota State University in Brookings, where he will study agribusiness. He plans afterward to go into crop farming and insurance.
After this summer, baseball will no longer be in his future.
“I put in my time, and I kind of want to go on with my life and start some bigger things,” he said.
In Thursday’s game, Worthington’s Legionnaires put some distance between themselves and Sleepy Eye with three runs in the second inning. After a lead-off walk, Brock Bruns singled and stole second base off Sleepy Eye starting pitcher Kyle Goblirsch. Pavelko singled home a run on an infield hit and a second run scored on a wild pitch. A third run scored on an infield grounder.
Sleepy Eye added two in the fourth on a soft single by Mason Sellner to pull within a run at 6-5. But Worthington answered with two in the fourth, two in the fifth and four in the sixth.
Tate Gaul tripled in the fourth. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth, a walk to Bruns forced in a run and another scored on a Pavelko sacrifice fly. In the sixth, Brandner delivered an RBI single, another scored on a Konner Honius hit, and two more scored on a Bruns single.
Sleepy Eye 300 200 3 -- 8 7 3
Worthington 330 224 x -- 14 10 0