Baseball team climbs back to section title game
Wednesday, June 04, 2014 6:19 AM
A loss two Saturdays ago dropped the Gopher baseball team into the losers' bracket of the Section 1A tournament. From there, they staved off elimination on four separate occasions to earn a spot in the section finals.
Chatfield’s Drew Hurley makes a catch against Southland. SAM CLEMENS/CHATFIELD NEWS
Lewiston-Altura 8, Chatfield 3
In the second round of the sub-section playoff action the Gophers faced the third seeded Lewiston-Altura Cardinals, whom they defeated earlier this season. This time, however, it was the Cardinals who were victorious, thanks in large part to five Chatfield errors.
The Cardinals began the scoring with a run in the second inning and added two more in the third to extend their lead to three runs.
Zach Eggers cut the Cardinal lead to two in the bottom of the third. The senior shortstop reached on a walk then stole second base, reached third on a throwing error, and scored on a wild pitch.
After the Cardinals added two more runs in the top of the fifth, Eggers was back at it in the bottom of the inning. This time he led off the inning with a double, then reached third on an error. He then scored on a sacrifice fly from Noah Grant three batters later.
Three more Cardinal runs in the seventh pushed their lead to six runs. Eggers attempted to spark a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, again leading off the inning with a double and coming around to score his third run of the game on another sacrifice fly. That would be all the Gophers would get, however, as they continued to struggle to put hits together against the Cardinal pitching staff.
Jake Neis took to the mound for the Gophers and pitched all seven innings. He allowed eight runs, four earned, on 10 hits and two walks while striking out five.
Fillmore Central/Lanesboro 2, Chatfield 12 (F/5)
The loss to the Cardinals dropped Chatfield into the losers' bracket of the section tournament where they would face an uphill battle to stay in contention for the state tournament. They began that battle with a 10-run rule victory over the Falcons in which the Gophers jumped out to a big lead early and never looked back.
The Gophers put up six first inning runs, beginning with a single from Nate Skare that score Neis, who singled and stole second base in front of him. Two more runs would score two batters later as Grant belted a double to left that scored Skare and Ethan Woltz, who reached on an error. Chatfield added three more runs in the inning, all of which crossed home plate on Falcon errors.
After the Falcons scored a pair of runs in the top of the third, the Gophers responded with four more in the bottom half of the inning. TJ Moeching scored the first run of the inning on a bases-loaded walk to Neis. Ben Pierce, who reached on a single and advanced to third on a single and Neis's walk, scored two batters later on a ground out. Grant capped off the scoring in the third with a single that plated Neis and Eggers.
Chatfield pushed its lead to 10 in the fifth as back-to-back doubles from Neis and Skare were followed by a walk-off single from Woltz.
On the mound, Tristan Aguiar started the game for the Gophers and pitched the game's first three innings. The sophomore allowed two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out two during his start. Aaron Paulson relieved Aguiar in the fourth and pitched the final two innings. Paulson held the Falcons scoreless in his time on the mound, allowing only a pair of walks.
Lewiston-Altura 2, Chatfield 7
After advancing with the win over the Falcons, Chatfield met the Lewiston-Altura Cardinals for the second time in the section tournament. The rematch resulted in the same five run margin of victory, but this time it was the Gophers who came out on top.
Runs were at a premium early in the game, as each team managed only one through the first four innings, both coming in the second. The Gopher run was scored by its starting pitcher, Tom Jech, who helped his own cause by reaching on a walk and coming around to score on a Cardinal error.
The Cardinals broke the 1-1 tie in the top of the fifth as they scored one run to take the lead. That lead wouldn't make it through the end of the inning, however, as a single from Woltz in the bottom of the fifth scored Neis and Eggers to give the Gophers a one run lead.
Chatfield added four insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to secure the win. The scoring in the inning was highlighted by a two-run double from Eggers that scored Jech and Moeching.
Jech allowed two runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out six during his five innings of work on the mound. He was relieved in the sixth by Skare, who came on to close out the game. Skare allowed two hits and struck out a pair over two scoreless innings.
Chatfield 1, Southland 0
In the quarterfinals of the section tournament, the Gophers faced the Southland Rebels, a team they had defeated twice already this season, but by a margin of only three runs total. As was the case in their previous two meetings, this game was a low-scoring affair in which the Gophers came away with a narrow victory.
Chatfield was able to hold the Rebels scoreless for the entirety of the game thanks to a great pitching performance from Neis and flawless defense behind him. Neis struck out three batters in his complete game, scattering five hits and a walk over his seven innings of work.
On the opposite side, the Rebel pitching staff was equally effective, limiting the Gophers to only four hits in the game.
In the sixth inning, the Gophers broke the scoreless tie, pushing across the only run of the game. The run scored when Woltz smashed a two-out triple to left that plated Skare, who reached on a walk in front of Woltz.
Neis preserved the lead in the bottom half of the sixth and seventh innings, recording three of the six outs via strikeouts to seal the win.
Chatfield 4, Kenyon-Wanamingo 1
The win over the Rebels moved the Gophers into the semifinals of the section tournament where they met the 10th-ranked Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights, with the winner advancing to the section final.
The Gophers were again led to victory by superb performances from their pitching staff and defense. Jech got the start against the Knights and pitched five innings, allowing only one run, unearned, on four hits and four walks while striking out one. He was aided by his defense in the outing, most notably on a first inning double play started by Neis that thwarted an early Knight rally. Jech was relieved by Skare in the sixth after the first two batters of the inning reached. Skare pitched the final two innings of the game for the Gophers, allowing no runs on one hit and one walk while striking out one.
After being held scoreless for the first three innings, Chatfield pushed across a pair of runs in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead. Neis led off the inning with a double and crossed home plate two batters later on a single from Woltz. Skare, who singled after Neis, also scored in the inning. He was driven in a single from Jech.
The Gophers added another run in the fifth to push their lead to three. The fifth inning run was scored by Paulson, who reached on a single then scored on an error by the Knights. Chatfield tacked on a fourth run in the top of the sixth, as a single by Eggers scored Dan Hurley, who drew a walk to lead off the inning and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jech.
The Knights scored their first run of the game in the bottom half of the sixth to trim the lead to three but that would be all they would get, as Skare closed out the game for the Gophers.
The win over the Knights moves the Gophers into the section finals where they were scheduled to meet the Wabasha-Kellogg Falcons on Tuesday at Mayo Field in Rochester. The two teams have met once already this season, with Wabasha-Kellogg winning a 2-1 game. As the participant from the losers' bracket, the Gophers will need to defeat the Falcons twice on Tuesday in order to advance to the state tournament.