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Paynesville Press - June 21, 2006

Bulldogs rally to reach finals again

By Michael Jacobson

In four state tournament games over the past two years, the Dogs had never trailed. Last year, in winning the school's first state title in baseball, the Dogs were only tied for two and a half innings.

Ryan pitches Against Maple River in the state semifinals, the Dogs trailed for most of the game but rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the sixth for a dramatic, come-from-behind 4-3 victory at Dick Putz Field on Thursday, June 15.

Senior Ryan Hess - who pitched only ten innings during the regular season - earned the pitching victory against Maple River in the state semifinal, scattering 11 hits and allowing only three runs in six innings. Hess also drove home the winning runs for the Dogs during a three-run sixth inning with a two-run double just inside third base and down the leftfield line.

The Dogs trailed 2-0 before scoring a run in the bottom of the fifth, cutting the deficit moment-arily to 2-1, and trailed 3-1 before rallying for three runs in the bottom of the sixth.

Senior Ryan Hess, who earned the pitching victory for the Dogs by throwing six innings, drilled a two-run double just inside third base down the leftfield line for the winning runs, scoring junior Cory Nietfeld and senior Derek Stanger. Stanger had singled to right just before Hess, scoring senior John Hemingson and cutting Maple River's lead to 3-2.

"In 19 years of coaching, that was as sweet of a win as I've ever had," said head coach Brad Skoglund. "It was a gutsy performance by the kids."

The team was banged up - senior James Paul did not play due to a sprained ankle and junior Steve Gerding played despite an injured thumb - and battled back despite that early deficit, said Skoglund.

With their juggled lineup, the Dogs were trying to stay close, as Skoglund exhorted the team early in the contest. "That was the game plan," said Skoglund. "We tried to tell the kids to keep 'er close and hopefully we can pull it out in the end."

Hess, who had only pitched ten innings this year, scattered 11 hits and earned the victory, going six innings. He stranded ten Maple River baserunners and avoided the big inning, allowing only single runs in the first, fourth, and sixth innings.

Mark tagging "Ryan kept the ball down, kept it in the ballpark, and our guys made the plays," said Skoglund.

Due to the schedule this spring - few weeks with more than two games and competing for a conference title with an enlarged schedule of 14 games - the bulk of the innings this year went to the top two starters - seniors James Paul and Hemingson - explained Skoglund.

Senior first baseman Mark Andrie tries to tag a Maple River runner during a pickoff attempt. He led the Dogs with two hits against the Eagles and with three hits during the state tournament. "I had to step it up because Jamie was hurt," said Hess, who despite not pitching much in games this year kept sharp by throwing lots of batting practice.

Over the first four innings, the Dogs had only two baserunners, one of whom was immediately erased by a double play. Maple River, on the other hand, had ten players reach safely, but had two make outs on the base paths and stranded six.

The Eagles took a 1-0 lead with a two-out single in the first inning but the Dogs escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second. First, Hess fielded a come-backer and threw to Hemingson, playing catcher, who turned a 1-2-3 double play.

Another walk loaded the bases again, but Hess induced a soft liner to short to end the inning.

In the third, Hess came as close to a 1-2-3 inning as he would all day. The leadoff hitter for Maple River singled, but Hemingson threw him out trying to steal on missed hit-and-run play.

The Eagles added a run in the fourth, but Hess stranded two runners in that inning - and again in the fifth - ending both innings with strikeouts.

The Dogs finally scored in the bottom of the fifth, with Stanger reaching after being hit by a pitch. He advanced to second on a ground out and scored on junior Chuck Mackedanz's two-out single to center.

"That was a big hit by Chuck," said Skoglund. "That sort of got us going. We needed a spark, and he gave it to us."

That hit cut the deficit to 2-1, but Maple River answered with a run in the top of the sixth. The Dogs, however, answered again in the bottom of the sixth, with Hemingson and Nietfeld drawing one-out walks and then Stanger and Hess delivering run-scoring hits.

Crowd Stanger and Hess had clutch hits in the sixth inning, said Skoglund, who said the team bunched its hits well against Maple River.

Paynesville fans cheer after the Bulldogs advanced to the Class AA state finals for the second year in a row by beating Maple River in the state semifinals 4-3 on Thursday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud.

Hemingson came into relieve Hess in the top of the seventh, needing three outs to advance to the state final again. The Dogs, however, dropped the first grounder and made a throwing error on the next, with the runners advancing to second and third. The tying run would have scored except for Stanger leaping at third to snag a high throw. That was a huge play, said Skoglund, who added: "I didn't know he could jump that high."

The seventh inning was an emotional roller coaster, explained Skoglund, of the two-on, no-out situation. "Uh, oh, hang onto your hats, here comes Maple River," he recalled thinking.

On an 0-1 count to the next batter, Maple River tried a suicide squeeze. Hemingson threw a low curve, and the batter missed the bunt. The pitch wasn't meant to be so low, said Hemingson, but it turned out to be fortunate, since it was a tough pitch to bunt.

Hess, now catching, handled the pitch and tagged out the runner before he could return to third base, holding the other runner at second.

The Maple River batter recovered to single sharply to center, but senior Trent Hansen made "a great charge," said Skoglund, and kept the runner from scoring from second. With runners on first and third, Maple River stole second to put the tying run at third and the winning run at second again.

Hemingson then struck out the final two Maple River batters to preserve the 4-3 victory.

Hearing the roar from the fans after the final out against Maple River "was awesome, priceless," said Hemingson.

"What a bummer," muttered a disappointed Maple River fan while exciting the ballpark.

The Dogs, meanwhile, enjoyed another trip to the state finals, with their bus rocking with noise on the way home.

Maple River lost to Winona Cotter in the third-place game 12-1 and finished their season 23-6.

Maple River-- 010 101 0 - 312 0
Paynesville-- 000 013 x - 1 4 2

Maple River - Batting: Paul Larson 2-3 R; Dusty Drager 2-3; Bob Olson 2-4 RBI; Brian Malakowsky 2-4 R; Pitching: (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) Jay Landsteiner (5.1-3-2-2-1-2); Josh Caven (L) (0-3-2-2-1-0); Malakowsky (0.2-0-0-0-0-0).

Paynesville - Batting: Mark Andrie 2-3; Derek Stanger 1-2 RBI R-2; Ryan Hess 1-3 2B RBI-2; Chuck Mackedanz 1-3 RBI; Derek Looman 1-3; Pitching: (ip-h-r-er-bb-k) Hess (W) (6-11-3-3-4-6); Hemingson (S) (1-1-0-0-0-2).

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