VFW baseball: Worthington, Pipestone move on

WORTHINGTON -- If baseball is indeed a "funny game" as former sports broadcaster Joe Garagiola once said in a book he authored, it was funny on the peculiar side Sunday as the Worthington VFW team edged Luverne 6-4 to win the South Sub-District c...

DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE Worthington VFW baseball catcher King Blanchette (right) stretches to tag Luverne's Tyler Reisdorfer (2) at third base in the second inning of Sunday's South Sub-District 3 championship game in Worthington. Reisdorfer was caught off the base on a bouncer to pitcher Easton Sauerbrei. Worthington went on to win the game, 6-4.

WORTHINGTON - If baseball is indeed a “funny game” as former sports broadcaster Joe Garagiola once said in a book he authored, it was funny on the peculiar side Sunday as the Worthington VFW team edged Luverne 6-4 to win the South Sub-District championship.
Perhaps Luverne head coach Mike Wenninger said it best. “It was a good game. But in any typical game you have your walks, hits and errors. If you lose focus, lose your train of thought, things can happen.”
“Things” happened to both teams Sunday at Worthington’s middle school field on a bright, hot afternoon. There were clutch hits - like the kind Luverne’s Declan Beers delivered in the top of the sixth inning to flip the visitors from a 3-2 deficit to a 4-3 lead. But there were mistakes and missed opportunities, too.
Luverne scored a single run in the fifth inning, helped with an off-target Post 3958 throw to second base on a force-out (and possible double-play) and, later in the inning, a bunt that loaded the bases as first base went uncovered.
Worthington escaped serious damage in the inning - allowing only one run. But in the sixth, Luverne managed a bad-hop single with two outs to put runners on second and third base, setting up Beers’ hit. A left-hander, he deftly went the other way with Worthington starter Easton Sauerbrei’s pitch, slapping it a-la Joe Mauer into the left field corner.
“He’s in the batting cage taking extra cuts. The hard work is paying off for him,” said Wenninger after the game.
But Beers wasn’t able to be the hero.
Suddenly trailing by a run, Worthington got a big break in the bottom of the sixth to score three. Shawn Hurley walked with two out and stole second base. Tucker Sorenson then walked, and a double-steal moved the runners up to second and third. Eli Gaul hit a grounder to shortstop that took a perfect hop into the fielder’s glove, but with plenty of time to get the final out of the inning, the ensuing throw to first sailed wild, allowing two to score. Sauerbrei followed with a single to score Gaul from second for an insurance run.
“We persevered,” said Post 3958 coach TD Hostikka after his team allowed the first two Luverne runners to reach in the top of the seventh only to snuff the rally on a pop out, a strikeout and a fly to center field. “It’s a battle of attrition. They’re a well-coached team, and those guys never give up. We struggled at times. Some untimely errors.”
Luverne’s sixth-inning error was the untimeliest of all. It forced Luverne to play Pipestone later Sunday for second place in the two-day tournament, with the winner advancing as the south sub-district’s second seed to the “final four” district tournament. Worthington, in moving to 27-7 on the season, will be the No. 1 seed in its Saturday opener in Pipestone against the No. 2 seed from the north, BOLD. Marshall is the No. 1 north seed.
Worthington reached Sunday’s championship game with a 4-1 victory over Westbrook on Saturday. Jed Jewett started on the mound and threw 56 pitches in five innings. Sorenson, who had two of Worthington’s nine hits, finished up.
Worthington 6, Luverne 4
Post 3958 benefitted from a strong, and at times gutsy, pitching performance by Sauerbrei, who went the distance on a three-hitter. The hard-throwing right hander went right to work on the Luverne hitters after putting the tying run on first base with nobody out in the seventh. The final three outs came in quick fashion.
“I have a lot of confidence in him,” said Hostikka, who had Sorenson prepped for relief if he needed him. “If we had an ace, even though Jed Jewett has more wins, (Sauerbrei) would be the ace of the staff.”
Luverne scored the game’s first run in the top of the first on an RBI single by Beers. Worthington countered in the bottom of the inning when lead-off hitter Hurley walked, stole second and went to third on a high throw, then scored on a wild pitch by Luverne starter Alex Loosbrock.
The home team made the score 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth after Blanchette led off with a single. After the next hitter stuck out, catcher’s interference put runners on first and second. A wild pitch moved them to second and third. Jewett was then retired on an infield out, but a run scored on the play. A hard two-out single by Logan Huisman drove in the second run of the inning.
Hurley reached on an infield out and a walk loaded the bases. Loosbrock was lifted for Trey Roberts at that point, and Roberts got the next batter out to end the damage.
Roberts pitched well in relief. But Post 3958’s Sauerbrei was around at the end to get the win.
Luverne 100 012 0 - 4 3 3
Worthington 100 203 x - 6 5 4
Second-place game
Pipestone 7, Luverne 6 (8 innings)
In a wild finish, Pipestone overcame a 5-1 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to send the game into extra innings, fell behind again when Luverne scored a single run in the top of the eighth, then scored two in the bottom of the eighth on a pair of bases-loaded walks.
A two-out RBI single by Andrew Jansen was the big hit for Pipestone in the seventh, and on the same play the tying run scored after his hit scooted past the Luverne left fielder.
In the top of the eighth, Luverne re-took the lead on a Mark Sterrett RBI single. But Pipestone loaded the bases with nobody out in its half of the eighth. The next hitter, McKinley Bush, coaxed a walk to force home the tying run and the next batter, Garrett Ploeger, walked to bring home the winning run.

DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE Tucker Sorenson of the Worthington VFW baseball team leaps high to avoid a tag at home plate Sunday in the South Sub-District title game against Luverne. Catcher Zach Loosbrock made the play for the out, but Worthington won the game.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at
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