Little Falls’ first 13 innings of postseason action played out about as well as could have been scripted.
Fortunately for the Flyers, the alternate ending proved to be even more thrilling.
A day after blanking Milaca 4-0 in Tuesday’s opening round of the Section 6AA tournament, Little Falls came out on the winning side of a wild finish Wednesday, topping Minnewaska Area 3-2.
The Flyers tabbed senior Kyle Boser for the start versus Milaca and he did not disappoint, turning in a two-hit shutout, striking out 13.
The result was far from surprising given Boser’s dominant stuff … and the fact that the increasing temperature approached what Little Falls head coach Chad Kaddatz called “The Boser Zone.”
“(Boser) gave us the type of performance that we have come to expect from him,” Kaddatz said. “It was nice to see the weather was heating up, as Kyle has shown in the last few years that as the temperatures and humidity increase, his velocity does the same.
“He was flat-out dominating,” he said. “He was able to overpower the Milaca hitters with his fastball, and his curveball was sharp and in the zone, and with those two pitches working like they were it was no surprise he was able to strike out 13 players.”
Milaca’s opening batter of the game reached when he was hit by a pitch and eventually advanced to third, but was stranded there.
The Wolves wouldn’t get another runner into the scoring position until there were two outs in the seventh, far too late to conjure any sort of rally.
Little Falls broke a scoreless tie without the aid of a base hit in the third inning, as senior Alec Zack was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, then junior Bryce Zawatzke hit a sacrifice fly.
The Flyers maintained their 2-0 edge until the sixth, when Boser provided himself with some breathing room with a two-out, two-run single to bring in Zack and junior Thomas Bell.
Zack finished with two of the Flyers’ four hits, including a double.
The victory advanced Little Falls into the double elimination portion of the tournament with a second-round match-up against Minnewaska Area.
The Flyers were able to turn to the equally dominant junior Adam Hallberg on the mound, with the junior tossing six scoreless innings as Little Falls led 1-0 going into the seventh.
Even though Minnewaska had managed just two base runners entering the frame, it found a way to string together a rally with back-to-back singles to open the inning, eventually taking the lead on a throwing error that brought both runners in.
The Lakers ran their way out of a chance to add on, however, as a failed squeeze bunt ultimately resulted in a double play to end the inning.
That would prove costly for Minnewaska.
Little Falls put its first three batters of the inning on to load the bases, before the first out was recorded on a strikeout.
That brought up senior Brett Strack, who originally had been in the lineup only defensively at third base, before the designated hitter was removed and he batted for himself the inning before, singling to left.
“Although Brett has not had a lot of hits for us, he did have a clutch game-winning RBI against Zimmerman earlier this season, and he always brings confidence to the plate,” Kaddatz said. “He is one of those kids that doesn’t get rattled and is able to keep his head calm in those types of situations.”
The Flyers were also looking for his defensive success to carry over to the plate, taking out the designated hitter after Strack made a pair of bare-handed plays in the field.
It certainly did, as he came through with a clutch, walk-off two-run single to right-center field to plate junior Jeremy Klein with the tying run and Zack with the game-winner.
“This is what playoff baseball is all about,” Kaddatz said. “We expect our ‘big-time players’ to make big-time plays in these situations, but this time of year it seems like to be successful you need to have different guys step up and be the hero. Wednesday was Brett’s time and he came through in a big way. The next game it might be someone else.
“We always use the old quote about the postseason, ‘where heroes are born and legends are made,’ and tonight Brett was able to add his name to that list.”
Hallberg finished with a three-hitter, striking out eight to earn the win.
“It really made me realize how spoiled we have been watching Adam pitch this year,” Kaddatz said. “He had a one-hitter with seven strikeouts through six innings and under 70 pitches, and it felt like he was having a decent outing, but the reality was that he was virtually untouchable against a solid hitting team.
“I would put Adam’s pitching performances up against anyone in the state this year,” he said. “He has been consistently dominant all season long, and the team plays with a lot of confidence when he takes the mound.”
Zawatzke, Zack and Boser each finished with two hits, while senior Michael Fregin, sophomore Thomas Miller, Klein and Zack all had one.
The Flyers went on to meet up with Holdingford in Thursday’s third round of the winners’ bracket, defeating the Huskers 5-0.
That will set up another showdown with St. Cloud Cathedral, which escaped its winners’ bracket game Thursday on a walk-off two-run homer against Osakis.
The Flyers and Cathedral will square off Monday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud at 7 p.m.
The winner of that contest will advance on to Thursday’s section championship game at Putz Field, where it would need to win only one of two contests to qualify for state.
The loser will drop into the consolation bracket and play again Tuesday, with a chance to move on to Thursday’s final.
Pierz and Holdingford will meet up for the third time this season in an elimination game in the consolation bracket Monday in St. Cloud at 5 p.m.
Pierz won an elimination game 9-4 over Sauk Centre, Thursday. The two teams split during the regular season.
The winner will move on to Tuesday’s consolation bracket action.
Coverage of Thursday’s games and next week’s continuation of the section tournament will appear in next week’s Record.
Also in the Section 6AA tournament:
History repeats itself for Pierz against Foley before Osakis upends Pioneers
Different year, different pitcher.
For the second season in a row, Pierz went into Foley and upset the Falcons to open up the playoffs, advancing with a 2-1 win, Tuesday.
This time around it was junior Cody Meyer turning in a gem for Pierz, going the distance and firing a five-hitter.
The Pioneers only came up with two hits, but made them count.
Pierz scored the game’s first run in the second inning, as senior Mac Gruber drove in Meyer on a sacrifice fly.
Foley came back to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth, before Pierz regained the lead as senior Evan Woitalla came in from third on a balk call in the sixth.
“Cody Meyer pitched a great game today and pitched out of some big jams,” Pierz head coach Dan Saehr said. “I am very proud of the kids as we beat a great Foley team.”
Pierz then advanced to face another elite team, taking on last year’s Class A state runner-up Osakis.
The Silverstreaks took an early lead and kept adding on, eventually clinching the victory with a six-run sixth inning to win 11-1 at Putz Field in St. Cloud, Wednesday.
Gruber tripled and freshman Matt Kummet and Meyer both doubled for the Pioneers.
Holdingford survives with late rally versus Albany, hands LPGE first loss
Holdingford was down to its final out of the season.
Then, it produced a dramatic four-run comeback to stun host Albany 8-5 in Tuesday’s first round.
With two outs and only one man on base, the Huskers filled the bases, tied the game on a hit batter and took the lead on a base hit by senior Jake Nelson and a Huskies error.
“To be honest, I was a little scared when we had two outs with only one runner on,” Holdingford head coach Jason Bruns said. “But I also knew if we could get to the top of the lineup I had five seniors coming up to the plate. We are a veteran group and have scored many runs this year with two outs.”
Holdingford slugged 13 hits in the game, with senior Jeremy Springer going 3-for-3 and juniors Nathan Brinker and Austin Gerads each picking up two.
Seniors Jordan Gombos, Mitch Merten and Mitch Messmann all drove in two runs.
Holdingford led the game 4-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, but Albany rallied for three runs to take a 5-4 lead, only for the Huskers to come back for the dramatic win.
Gerads struck out four batters in two innings of relief to earn the win.
Holdingford moved on to play undefeated Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (LPGE) at Faber Field in St. Cloud, Wednesday, pinning the Thunder with their first loss by a 5-3 margin.
The Huskers jumped out to a 4-0 lead with a pair of runs in the first and third, then answered a two-run bottom of the third inning by LPGE with a run in the fourth.
Trailing 5-2, LPGE scraped across one run in the bottom of the seventh, but Gerads finished off a complete-game victory to enable the Huskers to advance in the winners’ bracket.
“Austin Gerads told me after the Albany game that he would be ready to go,” Bruns said. “I was hoping to get four innings out of him, but he hung in there and battled. Austin has been getting better and better with each start this year.”
Offensively, Messman went 3-for-3 and Brinker and Gerads each had two hits, with Brinker driving in three runs.
Nelson had a single and scored twice.
In the final two days of the regular season:
Girtz tosses shutout
as Pierz blanks LF
Freshman Lane Girtz pitched a four-hit shutout without issuing a walk as Pierz knocked off host Little Falls 2-0 to close the regular season, May 23.
The Pioneers actually scored the only run they would ultimately need before Girtz threw a pitch, as Girtz himself scored on a two-out single by Kummet in the top of the first inning.
Pierz scored its other run in the third when sophomore Aaron Weber singled in senior Chris Ortman.
Senior Nathan Athman and Woitalla each had two hits for Pierz.
LF handles NLS with ease
Little Falls did win a non-conference tune-up at New London-Spicer, May 22, cruising 8-1 on the strength of a complete-game six-hitter by senior Nicholas Anderson.
Seven different Flyers recorded hits, with Klein, Zack and Zawatzke each collecting two RBIs and junior Benjamin Witt knocking in one.
Albany tops Huskers in 10
In a loss that would later be avenged in the first round of the playoffs, Holdingford fell 2-1 in 10 innings to close the regular season at Albany, May 23.
Gerads allowed only one run over eight innings, striking out eight.
Senior Cody Bialka drove in Messman with the Huskers’ lone run in the second inning.