LUVERNE — Amateur baseball teams rarely advance this time of year without an ace pitcher, and the Luverne Redbirds certainly have one.
Sensational right-handler Jake Haugen threw a two-hitter and struck out 12 Wednesday night as the Redbirds defeated Hadley 7-0 in Game 1 of a best-of-three Region 13C playoff series.
“Jake’s been lights-out all summer,” said Luverne manager Brooks Maurer. “He’s putting his name in there for one of the best pitchers in our league, for sure. We have a lot of confidence when he’s on the mound.”
Haugen, a 21-year-old who pitches at the University of Sioux Falls, gave up two singles in the third inning and allowed only two Hadley base runners to reach second base. He walked two and recorded five 1-2-3 innings as Luverne improved to 23-5 overall and moved within one victory of earning a state tournament berth.
It was not the first shutout Haugen’s had this summer.
“The fastball was working and I was able to locate, both outside and inside corners,” Haugen said. “I lost the curveball a little bit in the middle innings, but I got it back when it mattered.”
Hadley entered the game averaging more than six runs per game and hitting .291 as a team.
“They’ve got some good bats, especially at the top of the order,” Haugen said. “They can swing it well. It was big for me to be able to locate the fastball.”
Veteran stars Skyler Wenninger and Phil Paquette combined for five RBIs for Luverne, which recorded back-to-back shutouts of Adrian last week in another playoff series. Paquette also made several fine plays in left field, while Wenninger, the Worthington High head baseball coach, was exceptional at shortstop as the Redbirds prevailed before a crowd of 275.
Wenninger and Paquette have been playing winning baseball for a long time in Luverne.
“They’re huge on offense and huge on defense,” Haugen said. “It seems like they’re coming up at the right time here in the playoffs and delivering big hits.”
The Redbirds scored one in the first on Wenninger’s RBI single. Paquette delivered a sacrifice fly and Wenninger added a run-scoring single in the second. Kendall Meyer contributed a two-run single in the seventh as the Redbirds added on.
Haugen was clearly too much for the Buttermakers.
“He was really tough on us,” said Hadley manager Myron Bennett. “We did hit the ball well a few times and had a few scoring chances early, but he was tough. We only had two hits and you’re not going to win many games with that.”
Lefty Gavin Jacobsen, a draftee from the Jackson Bulls, pitched pretty well while taking the loss. The 2021 graduate of Jackson County Central High struck out nine in eight innings.
Derek Lundgren had two hits and scored twice for Luverne. The Redbirds outhit the Buttermakers (20-10) 10-2. Trent Carlson and Chris Halbur collected the only hits for Hadley.
The series shifts to Hadley on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. If the Buttermakers win and force a Game 3, it will be played in Luverne on Sunday afternoon.
The winner of the series earns a berth in the state tournament, while the loser plays the loser of the Windom-Milroy Irish series in a best-of-three competition next week to determine Region 13C’s third and final state tourney berth.
The Minnesota Amateur Baseball state tournament is set for Aug. 20-Sept. 6 at three sites: Waconia, Hamburg and Chaska.
Hadley 000 000 000 —0 2 3
Luverne 120 100 21x — 7 10 1