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Amateur baseball: Henning, Larson lead Hadley past Windom

BY LES KNUTSON The Globe WINDOM -- A masterful pitching performance by Worthington draftee Lucas Henning, along with a balanced hitting attack -- sparked by leadoff batter Joe Larson -- lifted Hadley to a 6-1 victory over the Windom Pirates on a ...

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Windom Pirates pitcher Derek Shoen, a draftee from Martin County, delivers in Wednesday night's amateur baseball playoff game against the Hadley Buttermakers. Hadley won the game, 6-1. (Doug Wolter/Daily Globe)

BY LES KNUTSON

The Globe

WINDOM -- A masterful pitching performance by Worthington draftee Lucas Henning, along with a balanced hitting attack -- sparked by leadoff batter Joe Larson -- lifted Hadley to a 6-1 victory over the Windom Pirates on a cool evening at Island Park Wednesday, giving the Buttermakers a one-game edge in the best-of-three series for third place in this year’s Region 13C amateur baseball playoffs.

Hadley, the defending regional champions, were the region’s top seeded team and -- after winning a pair of games over Lakefield in the tournament’s quarterfinals -- had the first pick in the draft. The Buttermakers chose Henning, the ace on the mound all season for the Worthington Cubs, who were edged out by Pipestone in the playoff round preceding regional play.

Unfortunately, Henning’s work schedule in Sioux City, Iowa, prohibited him from pitching in Hadley’s semifinal series vs. the Milroy Irish. Milroy won two games (1-0 and 5-4), sending the Buttermakers to the third-place series.

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Wednesday night, Henning made his 2017 playoff debut in impressive fashion. The tall left-hander was in command throughout, pitching all nine innings and notching a total of 17 strikeouts, while issuing just a pair of walks and scattering a mere four hits -- two of which could have been scored as errors.

“We felt confident about our chances with Lucas pitching,” summed up veteran Hadley manager Myron Bennett. “We drafted him first because we know how well he can pitch. He wasn’t able to throw for us against Milroy, but Lucas sure came up big -- like he usually does -- against Windom. Our infielders didn’t have much action, but our outfielders made some nice catches, which helped.”

True enough. In the bottom of the first inning, Hadley right fielder Kellan Johnson made a pair of nifty catches and hauled in another pair in the fourth, giving him four putouts for the game.

In the fifth, after Windom’s Collin Lovell broke up Henning’s perfect game with a sharp two-out single to left, Pirate designated hitter Dane Nielsen lofted what looked to be another single to left. But Buttermaker left fielder Chris Halbur made a diving catch on the ball and the inning was over.

While Hadley was making plays in the field  (when Henning wasn’t striking out Windom’s hitters), the Pirates were not making plays.

Windom, in fact, had four errors in the first three innings. Hadley, however, scored only once during that time, stranding a pair of runners on base in both the first and third.

Larson scores first run,                                                                                                                                  drives in three more Larson, who Bennett says is kind of the team’s catalyst, had two of Hadley’s eight hits in the game, including an RBI single in the top of the fourth and a two-run single in the sixth.

“We seem to go how he goes,” said Bennett of Larson’s performance at the plate. “He’s hitting at least .350 for us this season and we tend to feed off of him.”

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Larson scored the game’s first run, streaking home on Windom’s fourth error of the game (on a ball hit by Max Zwart) with two outs in the top of the third.

Larson drove in Nate Wieneke, who had reached on a fielder’s choice, in the fourth before plating both Halbur and Wieneke, who had drawn back-to-back walks, with another sharply-hit single in the sixth.

The Buttermakers tacked on two more runs in the top of the eighth as Trent Carlson started things with a one-out single. Johnson and Wieneke followed with RBI singles, giving Hadley a 6-0 lead.

Windom responded with a solo run in the bottom of the frame, as Jack Mellstrom reached on a one-out infield hit, advanced to second on a groundout to second by Joel Riordan and sprinted home on a two-out single up the middle by Pirate catcher Danny Kneeland.

Sam Huska had Windom’s only other hit -- a single to shallow center to lead off the seventh.

Huska and Kneeland were each on base twice, as Kneeland drew a two-out walk in the sixth and Huska led off the ninth with a six-pitch walk.

Henning, however, struck out the side to end the game.

Catching Henning Wednesday was his first cousin Blake Rogers (their mothers are sisters) who normally plays third base for the Buttermakers. Rogers previously caught for Henning in high school baseball for the Worthington Trojans and also in amateur ball for the Wilmont Cardinals.

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“Blake and Lucas worked together as a battery since they were about 10 years old,” summed up Bennett. “It just seemed like a good idea to have them team up again.”

Henning struck out five consecutive Windom hitters during the second and third innings and recorded five more outs in a row (sandwiched by Huska’s leadoff single) via strikeout during the sixth and seventh frames.

Eight Windom batters struck out at least once, while three of the Pirates were fanned a combined total of 10 times.

“Henning’s pitching gave a huge lift, no doubt about it,” concluded Bennett.

Seven of Hadley’s players had hits, as Nick Bruning (fourth-inning single), Derek Lieser (ninth-inning double) and Zwart (nine-inning single) joined Larson, Carlson, Johnson and Wieneke in the Buttermaker hit parade.

Derek Shoen, a draftee from Martin County, pitched the first six innings for Windom, giving up just three of Hadley’s hits, while striking out five and walking five. Kobe Lovell pitched the seventh and eighth frames before player-manager Nick Kulseth tossed the ninth.

Lovell, who will be just a junior in high school this fall, retired the Buttermakers in order in the seventh as Windom’s defense came up with some nice plays, including a diving catch by left fielder Jacob Johnson. Pirate shortstop Luke Gilbertson made several fine plays, including catching a line drive and doubling up a runner in the top of the ninth.

Game 2 is at Laurie Mahon Field in Hadley Saturday at 2 p.m.

                                                R  H   E

Hadley      001  102  020  --- 6   8  0                                                                                                                    

Windom   000  000  010  ---    1   4   4

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