Amateur Baseball: Northfield edges Aces, earn home field for section series
The Red Wing Aces had three chances to change its postseason fortune on Thursday.
The winner of Thursday’s Red Wing/Northfield game would get home-field advantage when the two teams meet in the first round of the Section 1B tournament. The visiting Knights managed to score two runs in the ninth to take a 6-5 lead, but the Aces got its first three batters on base in the bottom of the ninth.
With Dave Picha on the mound, Northfield forced a Zach Laffey pop-up, and Picha struck out Ty Buck and Zach Garner to secure the 6-5 victory at the Red Wing Athletic Field.
“We had our chance there at the end, and I’ll take Zach (Laffey), Ty and Zach (Garner) in that spot any day of the week,” said Aces catcher Steve Boldt. “(Northfield) just got out of it.”
Now, the two teams will meet up again in Game 1 of a best-of-three series at 2 p.m. Sunday in Northfield. Game 2 will take place at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Red Wing. If necessary, Game 3 will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday Aug. 8 at Northfield.
Winning nine of its past 12 games before Thursday, Red Wing got on the board in the first inning when Mike Stegora scored on a Jimmy Bohmbach single. Northfield tied the game in the third when Tim Maus scored on a single by Tommy McDonald, but the Aces responded in the fourth when Zach Garner scored on a Knights error. Boldt increased Red Wing’s lead to 3-1 after reaching home on a Laffey single in the fifth.
But the Knights would not lie down for the Aces, scoring three straight runs, including back-to-back RBI doubles by Maus and Nate Gelle in the seventh to put Northfield up 4-3.
For the second time in a week, Red Wing and Northfield found themselves in a heated battle. On Sunday, the two teams went 11 innings before the Aces finally came away with a 5-4 win.
“Not just (Thursday) and Sunday, but in the last few years, every series we’ve played with them have ended up being close,” said Bohmbach, Red Wing’s manager/first baseman.
Needing to tie the game back up, Boldt and Bohmbach teamed up to provide the game-tying run. With Boldt at third base, Bohmbach attempted to steal second base. When the pick-off throw left home, Boldt sprinted for the plate, avoiding the tag to score the run and complete the double steal.
“There wasn’t a call on that play,” Boldt said of the double steal. “Jimmy and I looked at each other. He pointed to me, I pointed to him. As soon as they (threw to second), I took off. I got there between the catcher’s legs. We were able to manufacture a run there.”
With momentum in the Aces’ favor, Garner put the team up 5-4 after scoring on a sacrifice fly by Mike Stegora.
An inning after getting out of a bases-loaded jam, Aaron Stoneberg looked to finish the game, getting the first two Knights out.
With one out to go, some confusion got the best of Red Wing. Sending out Dixon Irwin to catch, Aaron Johnson also came on the mound to try and get the one-out save.
Bohmbach explained: “There was a little miscommunication. Aaron (Johnson) was supposed to come in if Stoneberg got in trouble, but when we put Dixon in, (the bench) sent out (Johnson). By the time he got there, it was too late.”
Northfield’s Chris Paradise drew a two-out walk, and Kap Davis followed with a single. With runners on first and second, Eric Pittman drilled the ball into the right-field gap, putting the Knights ahead for good with a two-run double.
Four Knights – Davis, Pittman, Maus and McDonald – had two hits in the victory. The team’s 7-8-9 hitters, Maus, Gelle and McDonald, accounted for five of the team’s 11 hits.
Bohmbach led Red Wing by going 2-for-3, while Boldt and Alex Quiding each were 2-for-4 in the loss. Starting pitcher JT Cunningham went seven innings, giving up seven hits while striking out one while not allowing a walk in the no-decision.