By PATRICK SLACK
Two walk-off homers, a triple play, the end of a 14-game losing streak and the completion of a perfect regular season highlighted the final weekend of the Victory League (VL) regular season and the start of the division playoffs as the field of teams was narrowed from 20 to 16, July 6 – 8.
Buckman 4, Pierz Bulldogs 1
After missing out on a chance to earn a bye past the first round in a wild 11-10 game the day before, Buckman bounced back to win the East Division play-in game 4-1 over the Pierz Bulldogs.
Buckman got on the board right in the first when Corey Egan scored on an error, but Paul Herman tied the score two innings later with a solo blast.
The Billygoats regained the lead in the fourth on a sacrifice fly in the fourth, then tacked on two insurance runs on RBI singles by Travis Kahl and Zach Pohlkamp in the seventh.
That would be enough for Buckman starter Jeremy Monson, who scattered seven hits while allowing only one run to earn the complete-game win.
Travis Kahl had a pair of hits for the Billygoats and Ben Boser contributed a double.
Herman, John Pohlkamp and Bob Pohlkamp had two hits apiece for Pierz.
Randall 15, Flensburg 5
A day after upsetting Royalton in the first West Division play-in game, Flensburg appeared as if it might repeat the feat early in the second West play-in game at Randall.
But despite jumping out to an early lead, Flensburg couldn’t hold on as Randall recovered for a 15-5 win.
The Falcons struck for the first three runs of the game on an RBI double by Jarrett Waldoch, RBI grounder by Isaac Thoma and a run-scoring single by Eddie Wenzel.
Randall responded with three runs in the bottom of the second, but Flensburg took the lead right back on RBI base hits by Eli Ploof and Russ Fellbaum in the top of the third.
However, the Falcons ran themselves out of a chance to add on in the fourth and couldn’t crack Randall reliever Dusty Parker the rest of the way, while the Cubs scored 12 unanswered runs to earn the win and advance.
Parker hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to help put the game out of reach and Matt Otremba hit a walk-off two-run blast to produce the decisive 10-run margin.
Ricky Drew finished 4-for-5 with two runs and an RBI for Randall, with Nick Prozinski going 2-for-5 with a double and two runs and Parker reaching base four times with four runs scored.
Luke Thoma, Eddie Wenzel Ploof and Waldoch each collected two hits for Flensburg.
Flensburg 7, Royalton 2
Flensburg was held without a win in 14 regular season games, including a pair of losses to Royalton by scores of 9-3 and 19-0.
But with Luke Thoma available to pitch after spending most of the season working as the ace for the Little Falls High School team, the gap closed, and Flensburg broke a late 2-2 tie to emerge on top 7-2 at Royalton to win the West Division’s first play-in game.
After Royalton starter Matt Gottwalt left the game after allowing only two runs in seven innings, Flensburg took advantage of four errors to plate five runs in the eighth to break the deadlock and earn the win.
Thoma went the distance for Flensburg, scattering six hits and striking out six for the win.
Mitch Gregory served as the sparkplug for the Falcons’ offense, going 5-for-6 with a run.
Isaac Thoma went 2-for-5 with an RBI, Luke Thoma reached base three times and Cody Waldvogel singled and scored.
Adam Snyder had three hits and a run to lead Royalton, with Paul Krebs, Nate Benusa and Steve Hoff collecting the other three hits.
Pz. Brewers 9, Pz. Bulldogs 2
The Pierz Bulldogs limited the damage to keep the game close early, but the Pierz Brewers kept putting runners on base before breaking through with three runs apiece in the fourth and seventh innings for a 9-2 win.
The win clinched a first-round bye and the second seed in the East playoffs for the Brewers.
Steve Kimman, Logan Meyer, Greg Pohlkamp and Mike Weber all had two hits to lead the Brewers’ attack, while Alvin Kimman had a hit and Mike Poser drove in two runs.
Mitchell Boser held the Bulldogs in check, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings of work to earn the win.
Mike Pohlkamp and Jerron Boser combined to throw three innings of scoreless relief.
Andy Leidenfrost went 2-for-4 with an RBI, Pete Herman doubled and Paul Herman, John Pohlkamp and Ben Watercott singled for the Bulldogs.
Lastrup 5, Harding 0
Lastrup wrapped up a perfect 13-0 regular season with a 5-0 shutout over Harding, the fifth shutout for Lastrup and the eighth game it has allowed one run or fewer.
Handling the starting assignment was Scott Janson, who held Harding to just two hits over six shutout innings, before Reggie Litke finished off the combined three-hitter with three scoreless frames for the save.
Chris Klabo gave the Lakers an early jolt offensively, going deep with a two-run homer in the fourth.
Brandon Lochner, Jason Sadlovsky, Chad Weiss, Dave Woitalla and Klabo picked up two hits apiece for the Lakers, with Sadlovsky scoring twice and Lochner knocking in a run.
Mitch Dorn went 2-for-3 and Mitch Woitalla had a base hit for Harding.
Opole 11, Buckman 10
In a game that featured 21 runs, 28 hits, six errors and a seven-run comeback, Opole escaped with an 11-10 win over Buckman to seize the third seed in the South Division playoffs and force Buckman into the East play-in game.
Opole appeared to have the game well in hand after scoring four times in the first and three more runs in the third to build a 7-0 lead.
But the Billygoats clawed away at the Bears’ lead, scoring twice on run-scoring hits by Josh Girtz and Zach Pohlkamp in the fourth.
Opole added a run back to its lead to go up 8-2 in the fifth, but Buckman pulled back within five as Travis Kahl singled home Noah Boser in the sixth.
The Billygoats then erupted for seven runs in the seventh to grab a 10-8 lead, highlighted by a two-run double by Zach Pohlkamp, a two-run single by Ben Boser, RBI singles by Girtz and Kahl and a sacrifice fly by Noah Boser.
The Bears regrouped, though, coming up with three runs in its final at-bat before working around a Ben Boser double in the bottom of the ninth for the win.
Jim Muehlbauer had three hits and knocked in two runs to lead Opole.
Buckman slugged 15 hits in the game, with Ben Boser, Noah Boser, Peter Suska, Zach Pohlkamp, Joe Kahl, Travis Kahl and Girtz all posting multi-hit performances.
St. Stephen 13, St. Wendel 2
St. Stephen utilized a powerful offense and a momentum-killing triple play on defense to rout St. Wendel 13-2.
Trailing 3-2 in the third inning, St. Wendel had an opportunity to at least tie the score, if not take the lead with the bases loaded and nobody out.
But the Steves turned what appeared to be a harmless pop up into three outs to avert the threat.
The batter was ruled out based on the infield fly rule even though the ball was dropped.
The runner from third attempting to advance at his own risk was thrown out at the plate for the second out, then the runner from first was pegged trying to advance to second to complete the triple play.
St. Stephen didn’t allow another run the rest of the way while recording 10 of its own to cruise to the win.
Trent Phelps and Adam Tschumperling both homered and drove in three runs to lead St. Stephen.
Brent Van Heel went 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI for St. Wendel.
St. Mathias 8, Cuyuna 7
Cuyuna Range held a 7-3 lead after the eighth inning, but St. Mathias stunned the Miners with five runs in the bottom of the ninth to come away with an 8-7 triumph and the third seed in the North Division playoffs.
In the ninth, Zach Heidmann knocked in a run to close the gap to 7-4, then Ryan Thiesse hit a walk-off grand slam to lift St. Mathias to the dramatic win.
Blake Thiesse and Heidmann had three hits apiece to lead St. Mathias.
John Hoge and Beau Janousek each had two hits for Cuyuna Range, with Hoge knocking in three runs and Janousek scoring twice.
Playoff games that were scheduled to be played Saturday, July 14, included in the East, Buckman at Lastrup and Harding at the Pierz Brewers; in the West, Randall at Sobieski and Upsala at Freeport; in the North, Cuyuna Range at Nisswa and St. Mathias at Fort Ripley; and in the South, St. Wendel at Avon and Opole at St. Stephen.
The winners will then square off for a spot in the division finals while the losers will meet up in division elimination games, Sunday, July 15.