VFW BASEBALL: Luverne squeezes by Worthington
LUVERNE -- With the game on the line, it didn't take coach Mike Wenninger long to call one of the most daring plays in baseball. "Usually it's always on instincts," Wenninger said. "If you get a feel, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. ...
LUVERNE -- With the game on the line, it didn't take coach Mike Wenninger long to call one of the most daring plays in baseball.
"Usually it's always on instincts," Wenninger said. "If you get a feel, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the kids coming through in the situation and performing the task at hand and getting the bunt down."
With the score knotted at 2 and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning Monday night, Wenninger called for a suicide squeeze.
At the plate, Richard Gonzalez executed to perfection.
Gonzalez squeezed in Nick Rittenhouse as the Luverne VFW baseball team defeated Worthington 3-2 in extra innings.
"I was nervous," Rittenhouse said. "Richard did a great job of getting that down. It was a good win for us."
Gonzalez, who was already 2-for-3 in the game and reached all three times, took the Jon Reller offering and softly bunted it in front of home plate.
"It was a perfect pitch, right down the middle," Gonzalez said. "It kind of made me nervous getting the sign. I was praying that I got it down. Once the pitcher bobbled it, I knew it was the game winner.
"It didn't get too high. If it would have been caught, we would have been in trouble. Thankfully, it got down."
Rittenhouse knew right away he was going to score the game-winning run.
"Right as he got the bunt down I knew I was going to score," he said. "I knew the pitcher wasn't going to get it."
It was all made possible by Rittenhouse's leadoff double.
Reller relieved starting pitcher Lucas Henning (seven innings, one earned run, five hits, two walks, nine strikeouts) entering the eighth.
"We faced (Reller) in school baseball earlier," Rittenhouse said. "He threw 180 pitches, so I knew it was going to be a first-pitch fastball. I swung on it and got lucky I got a double out of it."
Lucas Nath reached on an infield single and Wyatt Aubert was intentionally walked to load the bases.
After Reller recorded a strikeout, Gonzalez stepped to the plate.
"You have to hand it to Gonzalez," Worthington coach T.D. Hostikka said. "He hit the ball and he hit the ball well and he focused and fundamentally put the bunt down. If anything, I felt if we could get him out, the next batter had struck out three times. When you have a left-handed batter at the plate, all you have to do is throw it to the other side."
But the left-handed hitting Gonzalez made contact as Rittenhouse had a running start from third base.
"It's nice to have a lefty in that situation," Wenninger said. "The pitcher went into a windup and we got a much better lead. Even if he doesn't get the bunt down, we're halfway down the baseline anyway in that situation, so that was nice to have that in that situation. It was a very well-coached Worthington team, so you know you have to stick close in all those games, so it was a nice win."
Both teams struggled to score early.
Reller walked against Gonzalez in the second inning and later scored as AJ Hayenga drew another one of Gonzalez's walks.
"I have to limit the walks, walks are what kill us," said Gonzalez, who threw the first 5 1-3 innings. "Our school ball coach says strikes equal outs, walks equals runs and that's what it came down to.
"It's something I have to work on."
Meanwhile, Luverne answered with a run of its own in the second.
Brett Heronimus doubled and Gonzalez drove him in with a single, tying the game at 1-all.
"It was one of my better days at the plate," Gonzalez said. "It was the first time in a while I've faced a lefty. I was seeing the ball well out of his hand. I didn't see a curveball, so I was hitting fastballs the whole way and they were all there."
Blake Rogers singled to lead off the third and Tanner Rogers drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, giving Worthington a 2-1 lead.
But an RBI single by Rittenhouse again tied the game as neither team would score in the next four innings.
"What's concerning is that it's the last two games," Hostikka said of the lack of run production. "We got three hits both games and we lost 3-2 both games. The things we've been doing well all year, we just aren't quite doing them. We left 10 guys on base and we had guys on third base with no outs and didn't do the job."
R H E
Worth. 011 000 00 -- 2 3 3
Luv. 011 000 01 -- 3 8 4