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VFW Final Four: Luverne upends Worthington to win state berth

LUVERNE -- The Luverne VFW baseball qualified Sunday for a third consecutive berth in the state tournament, but it had to rally from a 2-0 deficit to beat Worthington to do it. A four-run third inning -- an inning where three Luverne runners scor...

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As Worthington's Michael Iverson gets a lead off first base, Luverne starting pitcher Quinn Buss begins his windup Sunday in Final Four VFW baseball action. Luverne first baseman Isaiah Bartels is at right. (Doug Wolter/The Globe)

 

 

LUVERNE -- The Luverne VFW baseball qualified Sunday for a third consecutive berth in the state tournament, but it had to rally from a 2-0 deficit to beat Worthington to do it.

A four-run third inning -- an inning where three Luverne runners scored at the tail end of a bases on balls -- gave Luverne a championship in the Final Four tournament played at Worthington’s middle school field. In the title game, that fourth inning was the impetus Luverne needed to win 6-3 and spoil a solid pitching performance from Post 3958’s Will Brandner.

“We scraped enough to get things done,” said Luverne head coach Mike Wenninger. “Capitalized on Worthington mistakes.”

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Worthington didn’t make many mistakes on Sunday afternoon. But the one that was made in the third inning was game-turner.

The inning began with a walk, then an infield error that put runners on first and second base. A wild pitch followed, and runners moved up to second and third, still with nobody out. Luverne’s Isaiah Bartels then belted a pitch into centerfield that was caught by a diving Damon Schutz, and the first Luverne run scored from third after tagging up. Moments later, runners again straddled second and third base for Cade Wenninger, who watched ball four as the pitch got away from the catcher. The runner on third scored easily, the runner on second moved to third and came home on a wild throw to third that scooted all the way into the leftfield corner. Running hard, Wenninger motored all the way around the bases to score the fourth run of the inning.

Luverne starting pitcher Quinn Buss didn’t allow any more Worthington runs after that. He was pulled after pitching five and one-third innings in favor or Noah Herman, who finished up and allowed a single run in the top of the seventh.

Brandner held Luverne to four hits in going the distance.

“Worthington has a high quality team and a high quality pitcher in Will. And he does a nice job. He’s a competitor,” said Coach Wenninger after the game.

Post 3958 coach TD Hostikka was happy with his team’s effort in the championship contest, which would have resulted in a true title game on Monday had Worthington won on Sunday.

“One mistake gave ‘em three runs,” he said, then turning his attention to Brandner’s gutty performance. “I was pleased. That’s probably one of the best and most consistent games all year. He gave us a chance to beat them.”

Four teams opened Final Four Tournament action on Saturday. In first-round contests, Luverne defeated Tracy by 10-run rule and Worthington beat Adrian by 10-run rule. Later Saturday, Tracy topped Adrian 4-3 and Luverne made use of five Worthington errors to beat Post 3958 by a 10-0 score.

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On Sunday, Worthington earned its rematch with Luverne with a 14-8 win over Tracy.

Post 3958 opened the scoring in the rematch with a second-inning run, which began with a Tom Lais walk and a single by Reynaldo Paniagua. The run was scored later on a ground out.

Another single run scored in the third on a two-out RBI single by Lais.

Luverne took a 4-2 lead in the third, then added a run for insurance in the fifth inning, which was started on a Colby Crabtree double down the third base line. Another run came home in the sixth on a passed ball.

Worthington got one run back in the seventh on a leadoff double by Brandner, a single over second base by Michael Iverson (Brandner holding his base), and two batters later with a sacrifice fly by Lais.

Hostikka pronounced himself satisfied with Worthington’s season generally. “I think we were 17-12. That’s a pretty good year when you’ve got 15- and 16-year-olds. I think they got better. And that’s kind of my job, to make them better baseball players,” he said.

Coach Wenninger likes his team, like a state tournament-bound coach should.

“We limit our mistakes. We do just enough at the plate, and our pitching staff normally throws strikes,” he maintained. “This is a good, good team of 18 players. We’ve had good teams with maybe better individuals in the past, but we have a team of 18 good baseball players.”

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The 2018 state tourney will be played in Brainerd.

Worthington 011 000 1 -- 3 8 3Luverne 004 011 x - 6 4 2

Related Topics: VFW
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 dwolter@dglobe.com.
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