Bucs joust Knights in playoff clash; Jaguars walk-off to sectional win

RACE TO THE PLATE — Blue Earth Area courtesy runner Will Howard beats Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial catcher Carter Graham to the plate on a rare infield sacrifice fly during first-round Section 2AA baseball playoff action Thursday in Blue Earth. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

BLUE EARTH — “We’re playing on Tuesday and that’s all that matters now,” said Blue Earth Area head baseball coach Todd Schmidtke. “I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day of the week.”

Despite committing an uncharacteristic six errors, Schmidtke’s No. 4-seeded Bucs (14-6) earned a spot in Tuesday’s 5 p.m. second-round Section 2AA playoff clash against No. 12-seeded Kenyon-Wanamingo in Blue Earth. Kenyon-Wanamingo upended No. 5-seeded Cannon Falls, 2-1, during first-round elimination action Thursday.

Karson Legred went 2-for-2 with a double and sacrifice fly en route to a game-best three RBIs, while starting pitcher Gavin Storbeck hurled five innings of one-hit baseball to help Blue Earth Area survive the No. 13-seeded Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial Knights, 8-5, Thursday in Blue Earth.

Legred produced the pivotal two-run double down the left-field line with two outs to cap the Bucs’ five-run bottom of the second inning. Luke Mertens walked, Keegan O’Brien blooped one of his two hits on the game and Storbeck drew another walk from LCWM right-hander Ben Graupman to load the bases.

Brayden Barnett and Hunter Bleess worked out back-to-back RBI walks before Caelan Sanders produced a rare sacrifice fly on an infield foul-out. Unfortunately for the Knights, both first baseman John Anderson and catcher Carter Graham gave chase to Sanders’ popup near the LCWM dugout, with Anderson corraling the baseball for the second out. Bucs’ courtesy runner Will Howard, however, alertly seized the opportunity to score when he noticed no Knight player covering home and beat a diving Graham to the plate.

Legred then hammered a fastball into the left-field corner to plate two more runs for a 5-0 Bucs’ lead before the Knights manufactured solo runs in the fourth and fifth frames. LCWM pieced together four Blue Earth Area errors for a solo run in the fourth before Evan Mann drilled a leadoff double to the left-center gap, advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch and crossed the plate on Lucas Miller’s RBI groundout in the fifth.

Blue Earth Area loaded the bases via a hit batter and two walks during the home half of the fourth before Anders Fering hammered a clutch two-run single to right field to widen the gap to 7-1.

Sanders then reached on a LCWM error in the BEA sixth, swiped second base and reached third on the overthrow, and scored on Legred’s sacrifice fly to center.

Buc reliever Hunter Bleess allowed singles to Michael McCue and Tristan Jones, walked two and hit one batter in the seventh as the Knights rallied for three runs before BEA third baseman Luke Mertens triggered a pivotal double play to thwart the late comeback.

Mertens smothered Jaret Born’s one-hop liner to third base, stepped on third for the forceout and then threw to catcher Karson Legred for the second putout. Bleess notched his third strikeout in two innings of relief to seal the victory.

Storbeck allowed two runs — only one earned — on one hit, struck out six and issued one walk in five frames of work to earn the victory for the Bucs.

Graupman gave up seven earned runs on four hits, struck out two, walked six and plunked one batter in four innings pitched to receive the loss.

O’Brien collected two hits for BEA, while Sanders scored a pair of runs.

LCWM 000 110 3 — 5 3 2

BEA 050 201 x — 8 5 6

Ben Graupman (LP), John Anderson (5) and Carter Graham. Gavin Storbeck (WP), Hunter Bleess (6) and Karson Legred.

LOB–Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 7; Blue Earth Area 5. 2B–Karson Legred (BEA), Evan Mann (LCWM). SF–Caelan Sanders (BEA), Legred (BEA).

Section 2A Playoffs

Martin Luther/Granada -Huntley-East Chain/Truman 3, Madelia 1 — Jaiden Cook connected for a walk-off, three-run home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to propel the No. 5-seeded Jaguars to a two-run first-round Section 2A playoff win over the No. 12-seeded Blackhawks on Thursday in Truman.

The Jaguars (9-7) advance to face No. 4-seeded New Ulm Cathedral at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Johnson Park in New Ulm in a second-round sectional showdown. Cathedral gained the next round via a 10-0 victory over No. 13-seeded Nicollet.

Trailing 1-0, Cayden Fischer drew a walk to set the stage for Cook’s late-game hitting heroics during the home team’s final at-bat. Ironically, Madelia ace pitcher Logan Anderson was forced to exit the mound due to reaching the pitch-count limit. The Jaguars’ Ross Balcom then singled off Blackhawks’ reliever Kurt Lugo before Cook belted the game-winning HR.

Anderson recorded a game-best 17 strikeouts, issued three walks and allowed just one run in 6 1/3 hitless innings of work to earn a no-decision for Madelia.

Fischer gave up one unearned run on one hit, notched 10 strikeouts and issued three walks in seven innings pitched to garner the complete-game victory for the Jaguars.

Anderson produced Madelia’s only hit of the postseason clash by lining a single to lead off the top of the first inning.

MAD 010 000 0 — 1 1 1

MLGT 000 000 3 — 3 2 1

Winning run scored with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Logan Anderson, Kurt Lugo (7, LP) and Jedric Altenburg. Cayden Fischer (WP) and Mitchell Prafke.

Prep Softball

Section 3AA Playoffs

St. James Area 9, Martin County West 7 — Addie Bowers demonstrated both a strong pitching arm and a potent bat to help rally the No. 3-seeded Saints to a two-run victory over the No. 6-seeded Mavericks during first-round Section 3AA postseason play Thursday in Luverne.

Trailing 7-6 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Bowers, battery mate Torri Mohwinkel and the Saints rallied for three runs to end the Mavericks’ season in the single-elimination opening round.

Bowers and Mohwinkel each produced two of St. James Area’s nine hits, including one double apiece, with Bowers generating a game-best three RBIs.

Alyssa Williamson and Karlee Thiesse each collected two of the Mavericks’ nine hits on the playoff contest. Williamson produced two RBIs, while Thiesse doubled in one run.

Madison Klima doubled in a pair of runs for MCW, while Dani Nelson chipped in an RBI double.

Williamson, who was selected to compete in the Minnesota All-Star Series on June 9, closed out her stellar prep career by allowing nine runs on nine hits, struck out four and walked four in six innings of work to absorb the loss.

Bowers gave up seven runs on nine hits, registered eight strikeouts and walked two in seven innings of work to earn the complete-game victory for the Saints.

St. James Area (12-7), which lost to Luverne in Thursday’s second-round game in Luverne, faces Minnewaska Area in an elimination game at 11 a.m. Saturday in Marshall.

Martin County West ended its season with an 11-6 overall record.

MCW 010 501 0 — 7 9 4

SJA 030 123 x — 9 9 1

Alyssa Williamson (LP) and Madison Klima. Addie Bowers (WP) and Torri Mohwinkel.