By PATRICK SLACK
The playoffs provide a chance for star players to shine.
See: Pierz seniors Cody Weiss and Brad Meyer.
However, they also give others a chance to break through, evidenced in a big way by senior Cody Nordmann.
Added together, Pierz found itself on top in its opening two Section 6AA match-ups, winning 7-0 at Foley, Tuesday, before edging Otter Tail Central 4-1 at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud, Wednesday.
The Pioneers drew the fifth seed in their half of the sub-section, drawing the fourth-seeded Falcons in a first-round elimination game.
Pierz tabbed its ace right-hander Weiss for the starting assignment on the mound, and he never left, shutting out Foley on four hits and two walks, striking out eight in the most lopsided game of the section’s opening round of play.
The Pioneers delivered all of the offense Weiss would need before he even took the mound, striking for a quick run in the top of the first inning.
Pierz added another run in the fourth before breaking the game open with three in the fifth, then tacked on single runs in the sixth and seventh.
Weiss also produced a big day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs.
Senior Brady Dorn and junior Mac Gruber each added two hits, a run and an RBI and senior Nick Lochner knocked in two runs.
Pierz met up with Otter Tail Central in round two, after the West’s eighth-seeded Bulldogs knocked off No. 1 seed Staples Motley 4-2 in their opener.
Both teams squandered early scoring opportunities until Pierz broke through with a pair in the third on a double by senior starting pitcher Brad Meyer and an Otter Tail throwing error.
The Pioneers remained seemingly in control until the fifth, when the Bulldogs snapped Pierz’ streak of 13 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the postseason with a two-out single.
Meyer regrouped to strike out the following batter looking, stranding two runners on base.
Pierz’ bottom of the order provided a quick response in its half of the fifth, led by Nordmann, who had only one hit entering the playoffs after missing a chunk of the regular season.
Nordmann stepped up to the plate with two runners on and two out, coming through with a booming two-out, two-run double over the left fielder’s head to provide Pierz with a three-run cushion.
“That was very big,” Pierz head coach Dan Saehr said. “We talked about how you sometimes find guys that make their names in the playoffs. Our bottom of the order started potentially the biggest rally of the season Tuesday. If these guys get on, we can really do some damage. It definitely allowed me to breathe easier.
“We know what he can do in practice,” he said. “He has a very good swing – we have so much confidence in him. And he made an unbelievable catch in center field to end the game.”
Meyer would not relinquish the lead, closing out a complete-game five-hitter, striking out nine.
“(Weiss and Meyer) pitched two gems for us,” Saehr said. “As a whole, our kids really stepped up, really led by our seniors. Tuesday may be the best game these kids have ever played, executing and playing team baseball.
“It was huge,” he said. “We talked all year that we had three goals: win the conference, and we did that, get to double elimination and make it into the state tournament. Big-time players step up in big-time games and these kids definitely did that,” Saehr said.
Pierz was scheduled to play against Little Falls, Friday, with the section tournament continuing this week Monday and Tuesday leading into Thursday’s championship round.
Pierz closes regular season against Paynesville, Albany
Pierz wrapped up regular season play with a pair of non-conference match-ups against section opponents, jumping ahead early twice before falling 8-1 to visiting Paynesville Area, May 23, and 6-3 at Albany, May 24.
The Pioneers got on the board early against Paynesville, as Brad Meyer doubled home a run, but the Bulldogs scored eight unanswered to close the contest, including six in the top of the seventh.
Weiss went 2-for-3, Brad Meyer doubled and drove in a run and junior Cody Meyer singled and scored.
It was a similar story the following day versus Albany.
Pierz picked up a pair of runs in the top of the first, only for the Huskies to cross the plate once in the bottom of the inning and twice in the second and third en route to the win.
Lochner went 2-for-3 with a double, run and RBI and Dorn doubled and scored for Pierz.