Preserve and protect: Gutty relief pitching from draftee Sorenson helps Milroy clip Windom 5-4 in Game 1 of big amateur playoff series
The Milroy Irish, who clung to hope throughout Game 1 of their best-of-three Region 13 playoff series against the favored Windom Pirates and their superlative ace pitcher, Collin Lovell, defeated the Pirates, 5-4, in Windom on Wednesday night.
WINDOM -- With a hard-fought one-run lead to protect, Milroy Irish relief pitcher Tucker Sorenson fell behind in the count, 3-0, to the first batter in the bottom of the ninth inning, Windom’s Noah Kloss, before striking him out. He got the second hitter, Kobe Lovell, to pop out behind home plate. The next and last hitter, Luke Gilbertson, struck out on a called third strike.
Thus, the Irish, who clung to hope throughout Game 1 of their best-of-three Region 13 playoff series against the favored Windom Pirates and their superlative ace pitcher, Collin Lovell, defeated the Pirates, 5-4, in Windom on Wednesday night.
The Irish, trailing 4-2, scored twice off Lovell in the eighth inning highlighted by a two-out RBI hit up the middle by pinch hitter Tyler Alcorn. They added the eventual winning run in the top of the ninth when Pirate relief pitcher and Jackson Bulls draftee Ryan Rasche walked Ben Heichel with the bases loaded.
Sorenson, the crafty Adrian A’s left-hander Milroy had just drafted for the Windom series, pitched three gutty innings in relief of Irish starter Josh Baker. He had thrown, by his own estimation, more than 300 pitches over the previous five playoff games while the A’s were still in playoff contention. But the former Worthington High School standout has never passed up an opportunity to pitch, so when Milroy manager Bob Dolan gave him the ball, there was no hesitation.
“To get that first out right away, that’s a huge one,” Sorenson said about his showdown with Kloss, the hard-hitting Pirate cleanup hitter. “And I think I was 3-1 to the second guy.”
Rather than succumb to nerves, Sorenson knew what he had to do then.
“Throw strikes. Trust the defense,” he said.
Though the Irish made plays in the clutch Wednesday, they also committed a total of four errors, which directly contributed to Windom’s lead. Not only that, but further hampering their comeback effort was the fact that they had to fight back against the First Nite League’s best pitcher, and in his own ballpark.
“To take one against the best pitcher in the region, especially on the road, that’s huge. Nobody was picking the Irish to win the game,” said Irish center fielder Anthony Dolan.
The Pirates’ classy right-hander struck out 15 batters on a two-hitter in the team’s previous series against Pipestone, then on Wednesday he struck out 14 more in eight and one-third innings of work.
“Lovell’s the best in the league, there’s no doubt about it,” said Bob Dolan. “The best thing, though we struck out a lot, we made him throw a lot of pitches.”
Milroy scored twice in the top of the fourth inning to take a 2-1 lead off Lovell as designated hitter Jake Plaetz drilled a two-run double down the third base line. But Windom struck right back with two in the bottom of the fourth after a lead-off double by Gilbertson, a Conner Redman RBI single, and a pair of Milroy errors.
The second game of the series was set for Friday night in Milroy (results were unavailable at presstime). If necessary, Game 3 is back in Windom 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The winner of the series receives a state tournament berth.
Bob Dolan made a special shout-out to Baker for keeping the Irish in contention through six frames on Wednesday. Anthony Dolan praised Sorenson for his pitching performance, and also Alcorn for coming through off the bench.
“Total team win,” Anthony said. “We had Tyler Alcorn, who got a huge pinch hit to get us a key run. You gotta be cold coming off the bench, especially against the best pitcher in the region. That’s a big, big hit for Tyler. (Sorenson) came in and threw heat in the zone, battling, attacking.”
Sorenson, wearing his green Adrian A’s uniform which contrasted sharply against the Irish black, sent down Windom hitters 1-2-3 in the seventh, then shut down the Pirates again in the eighth after allowing two base runners. In the ninth, he maneuvered through the heart of the Windom order.
“It’s always a plus to come in and help a team in a playoff push, trying to make it to state,” said Sorenson, who protested that it was the Irish team that deserved most of the praise. “I’m not the vocal guy to say ‘Give me the ball.’ But I want them to know I can pitch in situations like this.”
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