Amateur Baseball: Cannon Falls top Hampton for tourney title
HAMPTON – With the game-tying run 90 feet away on third base, the pressure was on for Luke Winchell.
With Cannon Falls holding a slim 4-3 lead, Winchell had already gotten out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning. The pressure was on again in the ninth as Hampton’s Rhett Hebig led off the top of the inning with a double. After Hebig moved to third on a sacrifice fly, Winchell went after the Cardinals’ No. 5 hitter, Patrick Strey.
After throwing the first pitch, one of the last things Winchell expected was to see a suicide squeeze from Strey. Then on the next pitch, Strey squared up for the bunt.
“I didn’t think they were going to do (the suicide squeeze),” Winchell said. “Luckily Taylor (Pagel, the Bears’ catcher) called a curveball. It went to the outside corner and (Strey) couldn’t touch it.”
With the squeeze play botched, Cannon Falls got Hebig out in a rundown, neutralizing the Cardinals’ chance at tying the game and helping the Bears chinch the No. 1 seed from the Classic Cannon Valley League with a 4-3 win in the CCVL Class C tournament.
“I was a little shaky there for a while,” said Winchell, who got the save in 1 2/3 innings of work, “but it was nice to get it done.”
With the win, the Bears will be back in action at 7 p.m. on Saturday Aug. 2 in Waterville for the Region 4C tournament. Their opponent has not been decided as of Sunday.
Hampton managed to hop on the board first thanks to an RBI double by Joe Schlosser in the top of the second, but Cannon Falls was able to respond in kind in the bottom half thanks to an RBI double by Noah Callister. The Bears tacked on two more runs in the third with RBI hits from Brandon Voth and Taylor Pagel.
Then in the fourth, Callister provided another pivotal run. After drawing a lead-off walk, Callister stole second and then went on to score after a double by Winchell. Hitting in the No. 8 spot in the lineup, Callister finished 2-for-3 in the game.
“He’s a young kid and he’s a big horse,” Cannon Falls manager Keith Meyers said of Callister. “He can run, and it’s good to get him in the game and get him some swings because we’ll need him in the postseason for sure. For a young kid, he understands situations well and knows what to do.”
It also helped Callister that the Cardinals’ starting pitcher, Grant Martinson, is a teammate of his at Bethel University.
“I kind of know what (Martinson’s) dealing with,” Callister said. “I just had confidence, saw the ball, put it in play and made some things happen.”
Hampton kept the pressure on, but Bears pitcher Jared Woodward kept the runs off the board over the first seven innings. Going 7 1/3 innings, Woodward struck out six while giving up nine hits and two walks before Winchell came in to complete the game.
“Woodward did a good job keeping us in the game,” Meyers said. “I probably should have pulled him before the eighth; he was getting up there in the pitch count. But I like to give guys an opportunity to finish what they started and Luke came in and did a good job of keeping it tight.”
Winchell had plenty of work to do coming into the game with bases loaded, but he was keen on finishing Woodward’s strong start.
“Jared did a great job, so I wanted to close it down for him,” Winchell said.
Hebig went 3-for-5 for the Cardinals, while Schlosser, Evan DeCovich, Dustin Varpness and Austin Hebig each had two hits in the loss.