The Knights scored four times in the fifth inning and five times in the seventh to beat the Bulldogs 9-7 in the sub-section playoffs at Eden Valley on Tuesday night, May 30. The loss was only the Bulldogs' third of the season, but, coming in a must-win game, it ended the Bulldogs' season.
"They're a good ball club," said coach Brad Skoglund of the Knights, who tied for the Wright County Conference title this season. "Coming into the tournament they were the team I knew we had to beat."
Ben Bork dives back to first as a pickoff attempt gets by the fielder.
The Bulldogs were seeded second in the sub-section, and the Knights were third.
While the loss was disappointing, Skoglund said he was pleased with how the Bulldogs played and that the game was great.
With three lead changes in the late innings and the must-win playoff atmosphere throughout, the game was definitely worth the price of admission.
The Bulldogs looked in control early, building a 3-0 lead after three innings. The Bulldogs' starting pitcher, Doug Fuchs kept the Knights off the scoreboard by pitching out of several jams. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs used timely hitting and aggressive baserunning to score a run in each of the first three innings.
Ben Bork singled to lead off the bottom of the first. He advanced to second on a ground out and scored on Fuchs' two-out, check-swing single to right.
In the second, the Bulldogs scored without a hit. Nathan Schutz drew a lead-off walk, advanced to third on a botched pickoff attempt, and scored on a wild pitch.
In the third, Jon Lieser led off with a bloop single for Paynesville. He stole second, and because of a lack of communication, no one covered second base. The throw from the catcher went into center field, and Lieser reached third ahead of the throw from the outfield. He scored on Scott Braun's ground out.
"We looked like the Bulldogs of old," explained Skoglund about how the Bulldogs manufactured their first three runs. "We did the little things to get the lead," he continued.
The Knights put a rally together in the fifth. After a lead-off double, the Bulldogs got two ground outs, but a throwing error allowed the second batter to reach safely. A walk loaded the bases, and the Knight's first run scored on a ground out.
With runners on second and third, Fuchs was called for his second balk of the inning, which brought in another run. The Knight's #3 hitter singled to right to tie the game, and then scored on a double to put St. Michael-Albertville ahead 4-3. The Bulldogs regained the lead with three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Shaun Fleischhacker walked to start the inning. Bork hit a ground ball to short that might have been a double play, but the throw to second was offline and went into short right. Lieser walked to load the bases, and Braun greeted the Knights' reliever with a sacrifice fly to right.
Fuchs walked to load the bases again, and Adam Miller grounded into a fielder's choice, which thanks to an error by the Knights allowed two runs to score.
While Knights' miscues helped the Bulldogs enormously in the inning, a fine defensive play saved them. With Miller on first and two outs, Chris Rohe hit a drive down the right-field line, probably the hardest hit for the Bulldogs all night. Miller was waved home, but a perfect relay nailed him for the final out of the inning.
The sixth was scoreless, in part due to Fuchs' second pickoff of a runner from first.
Trouble started in the seventh with a opposite-field bloop single by the Knights' #9 hitter. A low pickoff throw rolled ten feet away from Miller at first, but was enough for a speedy Knight pinch runner to advance to second.
Fuchs got the first out on a one-hopper back to the mound. The next batter grounded to third, but an errant throw put runners on the corners with one out. Three consecutive hits gave the Knights an 8-6 lead, and another run scored before the Bulldogs got out of the inning. The last out was at the plate, as Miller threw to Braun for the tag, saving a run.
The Bulldogs threatened in the seventh but only scored once. Trailing 9-6 and facing the Knights' hard-throwing reliever, Bork dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line to start the inning for Paynesville. Lieser took a high strike with a 3-0 count, and then spanked the next pitch into left center. He hustled in for a double and the throw got by the Knights' second baseman, allowing Bork to score and Lieser to take third. The next three Bulldog hitters couldn't catch up with the heat and all struck out to end the game.
The Bulldogs finished the season with a record of 19-3. They were rated as high as fourth in the state in the Class AA polls.
Skoglund said the toughest part about losing was that the team was a great bunch of guys. He thanked the players, parents, and fans for a great season.
|St. Michael-Albertville--||000||040||5||- 9||11||4|
St. Michael-Albertville - Hitting: Eric Kolles 3-4 2B 3b RBI-4; Brant 2-3 RBI-2; Volkman 2-3 R RBI; Anonen 3-4 R RBI; Pitching: (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) Eric Kolles (4-3-6-4-3-5); Brant (S) (1-2-1-1-0-3).
Paynesville - Hitting: Jon Lieser 2-3 2B SB-2; Ben Bork 2-4; Doug Fuchs 1-3; Chris Rohe 1-3 2B; Justin Mackedanz 1-3; Runs: Bork 3; Lieser 2; Nathan Schutz; Shaun Fleischhacker; RBIs: Scott Braun 2; Fuchs; Adam Miller; Pitching: (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) Fuchs (L) (6.2-8-7-4-4-4); Lieser (0.2-3-2-2-0-0).
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