Normally, it might come as a surprise to see a freshman deliver a clutch walk-off hit against a perennial power.
Perhaps with the young firepower the Pierz lineup has in abundant supply, it would be more surprising if one didn’t.
After a three-run rally tied the game in the sixth, Pierz freshman Lane Girtz singled home senior Mac Gruber with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to cap a come-from-behind 5-4 win over visiting Albany, April 25.
“Our coaching staff has a lot of confidence in these players,” Pierz head coach Dan Saehr said. “Almost all of them have varsity experience in at least one other sport, and for some it’s multiple sports. It’s really not too surprising to see them doing as well as they are. They are very mature for their age and love baseball.”
And when Girtz stepped up with the game-winner, Saehr wasn’t the least bit stunned.
“Not at all,” Saehr said. “Lane is a kid who likes being put in those situations. Some of these kids were on the 14U state championship team last year, played VFW and Legion. Lane is a very hard worker and this has helped prepare him for situations like this.”
The Pioneers trailed 4-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning when they strung together three consecutive hits, including a double by junior Beau Winscher, then tied the score on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Teddy Dehler.
After junior Cody Meyer came on in relief to pitch a scoreless top of the seventh to eventually record the win, Pierz won it on Girtz’ game-winner.
Girtz and Meyer each had two hits, with Girtz scoring twice, and sophomore Noah Boser reached in all four of his plate appearances, singling, drawing two walks and being hit by a pitch.
Senior Chris Ortman started on the mound, holding the Huskies to three runs over five innings, two of which came on a fly ball lost in the setting sun with two outs in the second inning.
Coming through with a win over Albany, particularly in the manner they did, can serve as a catalyst for the Pioneers down the road, Saehr said.
“This was a big win for us,” Saehr said. “We have a lot of respect for (Albany head coach) Al Almdahl and the Albany team. They are solid every single year and play the game the right way. I was very proud of the kids for battling back from a 4-1 deficit and finishing the comeback. Games like this help prepare us for the rest of the season and especially playoffs.”
There are still plenty of things to work on, Saehr said, but two games in, with a 2-0 record, things have gotten off to a good start.
“The biggest difference at the varsity level is the speed of the game,” Saehr said. “Everything happens at a quicker pace. We have some sophomores and freshmen playing for us, but we even have some juniors and seniors who have been asked to fill new roles as well. There will be a number of players who will be asked to play multiple positions throughout the year. So it might take us a few games to adjust to everything.”
Follow area sports action on Twitter @MCRecordSports