Pitchers' duel: Worthington Cubs top Hadley Buttermakers 2-1 in extra innings
“There’s no better feeling than winning your first game,” said the 23-year-old Logan Huisman, who was making his debut as the Cubs’ skipper.
WORTHINGTON — The Worthington amateur baseball program has a rich history, but victories have been scarce the last few summers.
Maybe, just maybe, things are looking up for the Cubs.
“Today was pretty much the Jake Brandner show,” said Worthington first-year manager Logan Huisman after the Cubs upset the Hadley Buttermakers 2-1 in 10 innings on Sunday afternoon at the local middle school field.
Brandner pitched six shutout innings and hit a home run as the Cubs, 1-22 overall last summer, won their opener over the perennial powerhouse Buttermakers.
“Jake was pretty much the reason we were in that game,” said the 23-year-old Huisman, who was making his debut as the Cubs’ skipper. “And then he hits that home run. We were lucky to have him today.”
Brandner, a redshirt freshman on the University of Sioux Falls baseball team, struck out nine in six impressive innings of work on the mound. The right-hander featured an excellent slider, a better-than-average fastball and fine control.
The Cubs played errorless ball behind him in an overall solid performance.
The Buttermakers, one of southwest Minnesota’s historically top programs under manager Myron Bennett, led 1-0 after Kyler Deacon’s RBI single in the seventh.
Brandner’s solo shot to left in the home half of the frame tied the score.
The Cubs won the game in the bottom of the 10th on a two-out infield miscue by the Buttermakers. It was the only error of the game.
“My slider was working. It felt really good to help my team out and limit the (Hadley offense),” Brandner said.
And of his homer?
“It felt good off the bat. I didn’t know it was out, but I think it hit off the top of the fence,” Brandner said. “It’s pretty cool.”
The Cubs finished with just three hits, as Hadley starter Avery Weber worked seven strong innings on the mound. The Buttermakers’ defense was also airtight, especially in the outfield and at first base with veteran star Max Zwart.
Hadley, which won 20 games last summer and earned six straight state tournament berths from 2015-20, received two hits from Deacon. The Buttermakers had six hits, but stranded nine runners on base.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Cubs’ Jake Olson drew a one-out walk. After a hit batsman, Hadley went with their ace closer Zwart. The hard-throwing lefty struck out one hitter, then Worthington’s Blake Ahrensdorff hit a soft ground ball to short and the throw got away from the Hadley first baseman.
The winning run scored as the Cubs celebrated.
“We’ve struggled the past couple of years,” said Huisman, who has taken over this summer from former Cubs’ manager Ryan Swanson. “We know that we can do it. We won a lot of games when we were younger and in high school. We just have to believe in each other.”
The Cubs’ roster has been fortified by the addition of Jake Stamer and Jake Olson. They formerly played in Adrian; the A’s are not fielding a team this summer.
“Beating a team like (Hadley), I mean they go to State all the team, is a big deal,” Huisman said. “My whole life they’ve been good. So that means a lot to beat them.”
Huisman, who also pitched three innings in relief of Brandner and contributed a single and three other hard-hit balls at the plate, was beaming after the final out. He said he didn’t feel a lot of pressure as a rookie skipper.
“I just want to make everybody happy, but at the same time make the right decisions for the team,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, it’s not what people think, it’s going to be what’s best for the team.
“If I’m on the bench or whatever, that’s great. As long as the Cubs get the win. That’s what matters … Today we played a complete good game.”
Among the Worthington stars defensively was shortstop Triston Sauerbrei, who is a senior in high school. The Trojans have struggled somewhat this spring, but there is optimism that Worthington baseball is improved.
“There’s no better feeling than winning your first game,” Huisman said.
Next Sunday afternoon at 2, Hadley travels to Ruthton while the Cubs host the Milroy Irish.
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