The baseball team with their medals and third place trophy. SAM CLEMENS/CHATFIELD NEWS
The baseball team with their medals and third place trophy. SAM CLEMENS/CHATFIELD NEWS
Coming off of a thrilling run through the Section 1A tournament, the Chatfield Gopher baseball team was back in action at the state tournament, which ended with a third place finish.

Royalton 3, Chatfield 6

The Gopher offense got things started early in their opening round game Thursday against the Royalton Royals and continued to add on throughout the game, backing another stellar pitching performance from Jake Neis.

Chatfield got two first inning runs after loading the bases with no outs. Zach Eggers and Neis each hit singles to lead off the inning. They were followed by Nate Skare, who reached first base when he was hit by a pitch. The next batter, Ethan Woltz, drove in the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly that scored Eggers from third. A Noah Grant ground out one batter later scored the second run of the inning, as Payton Lund, who was running for Neis, scampered home on the play.

Royalton scored its first run of the game in the top of the third, cutting the Gopher lead to one. Chatfield would get that run back in the next inning, however, as Drew Hurley scored on a steal of home. Hurley reached on an error that allowed him to take second base. He was then moved to third on a ground out before coming around to score.

The Gophers added three more runs in the bottom of the fifth to make the score 6-1. Eggers led off the inning, reaching on an error by the shortstop. Then, after he was moved to second on a ground out, he scored on a single off the bat of Woltz. The next two batters also connected for singles, the latter of which, hit by Hurley, scored Woltz for the second run of the inning. The final run of the inning was scored by Tristan Aguiar, who was running for T.J. Moeching. He scored on the Hurley single as well, advancing home on the throw.

The Royals put up two more runs in the sixth but that would be all they could muster against Neis. The senior pitcher threw a complete game, going seven innings while giving up three earned runs on eight hits and just two walks. He also struck out six, including two of the final three batters of the game to seal the victory.

Chatfield 5, New York Mills 6

In the semifinals of the state tournament, the Gophers were opposed by an undefeated New York Mills team that was ranked second in the state. The Eagles and the Gophers squared off on Friday afternoon, with the winner advancing to the state championship at Target Field.

After a scoreless first inning, the Eagles struck first, plating a run in the bottom half of the second. Then, in the third, they extended their lead to five, adding four more runs. Meanwhile, the Gophers were stymied in the opening stages of the game. They weren't able to record a base runner the first time through the batting order.

That changed in the top half of the fourth, however, as Eggers led off the inning by reaching first base on an error. He then stole second base and moved to third on a ground out. Another ground out later in the inning allowed him to score the first run of the game for the Gophers, cutting the deficit to four.

The Gophers completely erased that four-run deficit in the following inning. Grant, Hurley and Moeching started the inning with three consecutive singles. Moeching's base hit scored Aaron Paulson, who was running for Grant, from third base. One batter later, Hurley scored the second run of the inning on a Tommy Jech ground out. After another ground out advanced Lund, who was running for Moeching, to third, Eggers drove him in with a single to right. A Neis single one batter later scored Eggers, who stole second base for the second consecutive inning, to tie up the game at five. The Eggers single sparked another series of three consecutive singles in the inning for the Gophers, as they recorded six of their eight total hits in the fifth.

After a scoreless sixth inning, the game moved to the seventh still tied at five. The Gophers were unable to put together a rally in the top half of the inning despite a two out single from Neis.

Two singles and an intentional walk loaded the bases with one out for the Eagles in the bottom of the seventh, as they needed just one run to move on to the state championship. They would get that run from the next batter, who drew a walk to push home the game winning run and end the game.

The Gophers sent Skare to the mound for the start in the semifinal game. He pitched a complete game, going six and a third innings before surrendering the walk to end the game. In all, he allowed six runs, two earned, on 10 hits and four walks while striking out four.

BOLD 6, Chatfield 12

The loss to New York Mills landed the Gophers in the third place game, which was played Friday night, against the BOLD Warriors.

The Warriors entered the scoring column first, putting up a run in the top half of the first. Their lead wouldn't last for long, though, as Chatfield fired back with three runs of its own in the bottom half of the opening inning. Two of those three runs were scored on a single by Woltz that pushed home Eggers and Neis, who both singled to lead off the inning. A bases-loaded walk drawn by Hurley later in the inning accounted for the third run, as Skare, who himself reached on a walk, was pushed home.

The Gophers added three more runs in the second inning to extend their lead to five runs. The scoring in the second was highlighted by an RBI double off the bat of Hurley that scored Skare. To go along with his run scored, Skare also drove in a run on a single in the inning. Woltz also added an RBI single.

After a three-run third inning for BOLD cut its deficit to three, Chatfield responded by putting the game out of reach with its third and fourth three-run innings of the game in the fourth and fifth. The three-run fourth was highlighted by a two run single off the bat of Moeching that scored Woltz and Paulson. The scoring for Chatfield concluded with a bang in the fifth, as Skare, in what was the final at bat of his high school career, clubbed a two-run home run to right that scored Neis.

Jech started the game on the mound for the Gophers and pitched the first six innings to earn the win. He allowed six runs, three earned, on seven hits and three walks while striking out two. Hurley relieved Jech in the seventh and pitched a scoreless inning to close out the game.