Area postseason baseball scores from Tuesday:
Section 6AA Baseball: Little Falls 3, Milaca 1
A controversial balk call rescued Milaca from one baserunning gaffe as it tried to mount a last-inning rally.
But there was no one to rescue the Wolves from their next one, as host Little Falls survived a first-round scare with a 3-1 win in Section 6AA play, Tuesday.
The Flyers followed that up with a 3-0 shutout over Minnewaska Area at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud, Wednesday, advancing to the third round of winner’s bracket play.
After hanging around all afternoon in the postseason opener, despite the shutdown pitching of Little Falls senior Josh Wenzel, Milaca opened the top of the seventh inning with a leadoff double, bringing the tying run to the plate.
Wenzel spun and threw to second to catch the Milaca base runner inexplicably leading too far off the bag, only for the home plate umpire to issue a delayed balk call to negate the pick off.
The Wolves took advantage of the extra out by placing the tying run on first with one out following a throwing error, bringing the potential go-ahead run to the plate.
After a conference at the mound, the Flyers regrouped, with Wenzel working ahead of the Milaca batter.
Then, after a swinging strike three, junior catcher Alec Zack immediately sprung up from behind the plate and pegged the Wolves’ base runner straying too far from third base, bringing a sudden and relieving end to the game for Little Falls to advance into the double elimination portion of the section tournament.
“We have spent a lot of time this year working on the mental side of the game and how to ‘flush it’ and move on,” Little Falls head coach Chad Kaddatz said. “We had a ‘questionable’ call that took away an out in the seventh inning and then the next batter reached on a throwing error, but we never panicked.
“It is situations like that where sometimes the ‘wheels come off’ and one mistake becomes two or three,” he said. “But we kept our composure and our focus and moved on to the next pitch.”
After playing to a scoreless tie through seven innings before finally breaking through with an extra-inning win during the regular season, the Flyers wasted no time getting on the board quickly in the contest.
Wenzel drilled a base hit to right field and never stopped running, hustling into second with a leadoff double before proceeding to score following consecutive singles by seniors Gabe Ploof and Collin Eckman.
“That was exactly what we are looking for out of the leadoff spot,” Kaddatz said. “It was especially big in a playoff game. You never know if people will start off a little tight or press a bit, so to have him lead off the game with not only a hit, but a real hustle play and stretch a double out of a ball that 95 percent of people would have pulled up at first and taken a single, was huge for setting the tone for us.”
Little Falls pushed its lead to 2-0 in the third, as senior Spencer Fenske delivered a run-scoring hit after Eckman, who finished 3-for-3, collected a two-out single and stole second base.
Milaca answered with a run in the fourth to get on the board and pull back within a run, before sophomore Bryce Zawatzke stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the inning.
Playing in his first career varsity playoff game, the first baseman launched a no-doubt home run over the fence in left field, providing a crucial insurance run as Milaca attempted to rally late.
Wenzel allowed only five hits and one walk, striking out 10 in the complete-game win on the mound.
Section 6AA Baseball: Pierz 7, Foley 0
Senior Cody Weiss turned in a four-hit shutout as Pierz rolled past host Foley 7-0 in by far the most lopsided contest in the opening round of the Section 6AA tournament.
Senior Brady Dorn, junior Mac Gruber and Weiss each had two hits, scored and drove in a run for Pierz.
Section 6AA Baseball: St. Cloud Cathedral 3, Holdingford 0
Holdingford contained top-ranked St. Cloud Cathedral’s offense for most of the first-round match-up, but a two-run triple in the first inning proved to be all the Crusaders would need in a 3-0 victory at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud.
Section 5A Baseball: Upsala-Swanville Area 2, Browerville 1 (8 inn.)
Senior Brock Cichon worked out of a jam in relief in the sixth inning to keep the score tied, allowing Upsala-Swanville Area to take down Browerville 2-1 in eight innings in Cold Spring.
Section 5A Baseball: Royalton 3, Rush City 1
With runners at the corners and one out in the seventh, Royalton senior starting pitcher Matt Silbernick snared a searing liner up the middle, then threw to first to complete a double play to seal a thrilling 3-1 victory over Rush City in Pierz.
Wednesday playoff schedule:
Pierz vs. Otter Tail Central at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud at 5 p.m.
Little Falls vs. Minnewaska Area at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud at 7 p.m.
Royalton vs. Hinckley-Finlayson in Pierz at 7 p.m.
Upsala-Swanville Area vs. Osakis in Cold Spring at 7 p.m.