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WBE baseball coasts into sub-state legion final

DROPPING DOWN A BUNT — Winnebago American Legion Post 82/Blue Earth Post 89 batter Keegan O’Brien drops down a sacrifice bunt during baseball action in Saturday’s Division II, Southwest Sub-State unbeaten bracket in Wabasso. Luverne Post 123 catcher Brayden Ripka looks on. (Photo by Kyle McAreavy)

WABASSO — Luverne American Legion Post 123 put Winnebago/Blue Earth in an early deficit, but the Post 82/89 team refused to believe it wouldn’t win.

WBE (16-1) took a 9-5 win over Luverne on Saturday night in Wabasso to advance to the Minnesota Division II, Southwest Sub-State championship game next Saturday at City Field in Wabasso.

With the win, WBE must wait through Friday’s two games, first between United South Central and Springfield, then the winner of that game facing Luverne, to find its opponent for the championship matchup.

No matter which of the three teams advance to next Saturday’s action, it will have to beat WBE twice, while Posts 82/89 will need to win one game to advance to the Division II state tournament in Sacred Heart.

“We’ll have a couple of practices coming up this week and we’ll make sure we’re staying sharp,” WBE head coach Paul Nienaber said of the team’s upcoming rest week. ” … We will come to practice, we will work hard and we will be ready to go come next Saturday.”

Luverne jumped ahead 3-0 in the top of the first. Bailey Cowell opened the game with a single up the middle, then Cade Wenninger was hit by a pitch to put Cowell in scoring position.

Ethan Beyer then was able to bring Cowell in with a single through the right side of the infield. After another hit batter, Casey Sehr grounded out for an RBI and Connor Connell hit a sacrifice fly to give Luverne its advantage.

WBE answered quickly. Adam Schavey started the bottom half of the first with a single through the left side of the infield, then after Kean Hicks walked, Keegan O’Brien attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt.

O’Brien’s bunt traveled down the third base line and he would have beaten the throw for a single to load the bases, but the throw to first sailed and both Schavey and Hicks were able to score, while O’Brien moved to second.

Logan O’Hara followed with a ground-rule double that was hard hit down the left-field line and rolled under the fence for an RBI. O’Hara moved to third on a wild pitch, then gave WBE the lead when he scored on a Ryan Madetzke groundout.

WBE starter Jimmy Allis kept Luverne off the scoreboard in the top of the second, then the Post 82/89 offense built on its momentum in the bottom half.

Parker Meyers reached on a walk, then Schavey dropped a sacrifice bunt to move him to second. Meyers continued to third with no one covering the base, then the throw to try to catch him traveled down the left-field fence, and he was able to get up and score.

Hicks and O’Brien kept the rally going with singles, then O’Hara lined a ball into left field on a 3-0 count to score Hicks.

Madetzke attempted to put down a safety-squeeze bunt, but Luverne’s pitcher attempted to catch O’Brien, who slid in just ahead of the toss to the plate. Allis then helped his own cause with single to left for an RBI, putting WBE up 8-3.

“HUGE, in all capital letters,” Nienaber said. “I think the part of that game that I liked the best was we got down 3-0 in the first, but there was no panic, there was nobody putting their head down, there was a belief that we were coming right back from the jump. That wouldn’t have happened in years past, their belief in themselves, their confidence, their ability to pick their teammates up. Huge.”

After some trouble in the first two innings, Allis got into a rhythm in the third. He worked a 1-2-3 third inning, then allowed one baserunner in each of the fourth and fifth innings to keep WBE up 8-3 through five frames.

“I started really feeling my two-seam fastball and my curveballs,” Allis said of his strong middle innings. “I got some ground balls, Luke Mertens made some really nice plays at third, Luke Schonborn made some good plays and Logan O’Hara made a great pick at first. It was a full team effort.”

Allis looked to continue his dominant stretch, striking out the first two batters in the sixth, but an error, a single and a Cowell triple put two unearned runs on the board for Luverne and brought the Post 123 deficit to 8-5.

WBE collected an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when O’Hara and Madetzke walked and Mertens reached on an error, allowing O’Hara to score.

Allis came back out for the final inning with eight pitches before the required pitch-count stopping point, worked through the first two batters in three pitches, allowed a single and forced a pop out to end the game.

“I got pretty locked in at the beginning of the game, I was listening to my warm-up music before,” Allis said. “I had some jitters in the first inning and they scored three, but when we came out and took the momentum, after that it was lights out for them.”

LUV 300 002 0 — 5 5 3

WBE 440 001 x — 9 9 2

Kaden Anderson (LP), Riley Sneller (2), Colby Crabtree (3) and Brayden Ripka. Jimmy Allis (WP) and Ryan Madetzke.

LOB–Luverne 6, WBE 7. 2B–Logan O’Hara (WBE), Luke Mertens (WBE). 3B–Bailey Cowell (LUV). SAC–Adam Schavey (WBE). SF–Connor Connell (LUV).

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