Luverne sweeps WBE, advances to state
WABASSO — Luverne American Legion Post 123 took three wins in two days to advance to the Legion baseball state tournament.
After beating Springfield on Friday, Luverne advanced to Saturday’s Minnesota Division II, Southwest Sub-State championship matchup, needing to beat Winnebago Post 82/Blue Earth Post 89 twice to advance.
Luverne took Game 1 18-7 to force a second game, then beat WBE 7-4 in the second matchup to advance to next Weekend’s Division II state tournament in Sacred Heart.
WBE ends its season with a record of 16-3.
“I just told them thank you,” WBE head coach Paul Nienaber said of his post-game message to his team. “This group of players, especially the seniors, that was the first group I worked with when I came to Blue Earth. I’ve built some strong relationships with those guys and I’m really going to miss the heck out of them. It was just a thank you, and I told them to not let the disappointment of not reaching the ultimate goal to shade the whole season. The guys played great all year, we had a fun season, I told them, ‘Hey, it’s hard, it hurts to lose that game, but if it doesn’t hurt, you shouldn’t be playing sports.’ At the same time, we need to be proud of what we accomplished along the way.”
After WBE tied Game 2 at three in the top of the third, Luverne broke the game open with a three-run inning of its own in the fourth.
Brayden Ripka started the inning with a single to the hole between short and third, beating the throw to first, then stealing second before Bailey Cowell walked.
Cade Wenninger then lined a single through the left side of the infield to load the bases for Ethan Beyer, who brought a run in with a walk.
Colby Crabtree grounded into a fielder’s choice for an RBI and Casey Sehr singled to the same spot as Ripka, putting Luverne ahead 6-3.
WBE scored a run in the sixth to cut the lead to two when Jimmy Allis walked, took second on an errant pickoff throw, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a delayed double steal when Parker Meyers took off for second after walking.
Luverne added its final run in the sixth when Cowell singled, stole second and scored on a Beyer single.
Luverne started the matchup’s scoring with two runs in the first and another in the second on four hits and a hit batter.
WBE answered with three runs to tie it in the top of the third.
Kean Hicks and Keegan O’Brien both walked, then Ryan Madetzke hit a grounder to first and collided with the incoming tag, forcing Luverne’s first baseman to lose control of the ball and load the bases.
Luke Mertens then singled to left for two RBIs and Allis grounded out to tie the matchup at three.
Allis pitched four innings for WBE, allowing six runs on seven hits, three walks and a hit batter, while striking out five. Logan O’Hara pitched the final two innings, allowing one run on two hits, while striking out two.
Crabtree started for Luverne, pitching 2 1/3 and allowing three runs on three hits and three walks, while striking out three. Sehr pitched the next three innings, allowing no runs on four walks, while striking out two. Connor Connel pitched the final 1 2/3 innings and allowed one hit, while striking out four.
“It was a tough day, in Game 1 we were in it, we had a lead late and it just got away from us,” Nienaber said. “Sometimes all you can do is tip your cap to the other team. Luverne is really good and there’s a reason they’re going to represent our district at state. I think we’re a really good team, with a couple of breaks in that second game, maybe things go a lot different. … That’s baseball.”
Luverne scored 14 runs in the final two innings of Game 1 to force the second matchup.
With WBE leading 6-4, Luverne got to work in the sixth.
Kaden Anderson was hit by a pitch then Ripka walked before Cowell dropped a bunt single down the third-base line to load the bases.
Wenninger then lined into an error to score two runs before Beyer singled to bring in another.
Sehr finishedº the run with a single that stayed just fair over the third-base bag for two RBIs,
Luverne then put together five hits and seven walks to score nine runs in the seventh, sending 15 batters to the plate.
Luverne first got on the board with two runs in the second and another two in the third on a combined one walk and four hits, including a Connell home run that dropped just past the wall in left-center field.
WBE answered with one run in the second when Madetzke and Mertens singled, then Allis doubled, then scored five in the third.
Adam Schavey led off the frame with a single through the left side of the infield, then Hicks hit a hard grounder to right field before O’Brien reached on an errant throw on his attempted sacrifice bunt. Schavey was able to score on the throw, while Hicks moved to third and O’Brien advanced to second.
O’Hara then singled to center for an RBI before Mertens singled to left for an RBI of his own.
Allis reached base on an error, which allowed WBE’s fourth run of the inning to cross the plate, then Luke Schonborn grounded into a fielder’s choice for WBE’s final RBI.
WBE used six pitchers in the matchup.
Wenninger pitched the first 5 2/3 for Luverne, allowing seven runs 10 hits, while striking out seven. Crabtree pitched the final 1 1/3 and struck out three, while giving up a hit.
LUV 022 005 9 — 18 17 4
WBE 015 001 0 — 7 11 3
Cade Wenninger (WP), Colby Crabtree (6, SV) and Brayden Ripka. Anthony Carr, Logan O’Hara (5, LP), Taylor Davids (6), Abe Kokos (7), Keegan O’Brien (7), Luke Mertens (7) and Ryan Madetzke.
LOB–LUV 10, WBE 7. 2B–Casey Sehr (LUV), Jimmy Allis (WBE). HR–Connor Connell (LUV).
WBE 003 001 0 — 4 4 1
LUV 210 301 x — 7 9 1
Jimmy Allis (LP), Logan O’Hara (5) and Ryan Madetzke. Colby Crabtree, Casey Sehr (3, WP), Connor Connell (6) and Brayden Ripka.
LOB–WBE 8, LUV 7. 2B–Logan O’Hara (WBE). SAC–Kean Hicks (WBE) 2.