By PATRICK SLACK
Upsala-Swanville Area (USA) was six outs away from being in the Section 5A driver’s seat, with its ace on the mound.
But a late rally by fifth-ranked Osakis changed all of that, as the Patriots suffered a gut-wrenching extra-inning loss a night after winning in eight innings against Browerville.
The loss dropped USA into the consolation bracket, requiring five consecutive wins to claim the section title.
Following a first-round win over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (BBE), USA matched up with Browerville in Cold Spring, Tuesday, a team that had knocked off USA twice during the regular season.
The tone of this game was different from the outset, though, as the Patriots jumped on Browerville for a first-inning run as junior Eric Lampert doubled home junior Christian Pekarek.
USA clung to that 1-0 lead through five innings, as Lampert mowed down the Tigers lineup the first two times through the order.
Browerville finally pushed across the equalizing run in the bottom of the sixth with three consecutive hits to open the inning, prompting USA to call upon senior ace pitcher Brock Cichon.
Cichon preserved the tie score, enabling the Patriots to force extra innings, where they would win it 2-1 in the eighth on a two-out, two-strike single by senior Nick Frieler to drive in junior Dylan Zimmerman from third base.
Cichon slammed the door in the bottom of the eighth, earning the win with three innings of no-hit relief.
Wednesday’s showdown in Cold Spring against Osakis followed a near-identical script, with the Patriots holding a one-run lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Silverstreaks took advantage of a two-base passed ball to tie the score in the sixth, though, then won it in the eighth on a bases-loaded, walk-off walk with one out.
The Patriots scored their first run of the game in the second inning when freshman Justin Cichon squeeze home senior Colten Kruzel.
USA then answered an Osakis run in the fourth inning immediately in the top of the fifth, as Pekarek singled, advanced to second on a bunt, stole third and scored on a fielder’s choice.
Pekarek finished with three hits in the contest, with Frieler collecting two hits for the second night in a row.
The third-seeded Patriots opened postseason play with a relative cakewalk past sixth-seeded visiting BBE, May 24, shutting out the Jaguars 6-0 in the opening round of Sub-Section 5A West play.
Brock Cichon turned in six shutout innings, allowing only two hits and striking out seven.
Senior Alec Griffith went 3-for-3 and drove in four of USA’s six runs, with senior Colten Kruzel collecting two hits and an RBI and junior Christian Pekarek drawing three walks and scoring twice.