Amateur Baseball: Walk-off hit ends Aces' season
Ultimately, missed opportunities spelled the end of Red Wing's season.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the top of the ninth inning, the Aces managed to tie the game. But with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, Northfield's Dave Picha hit a walk-off single up the middle as the Knights clinched the best-of-three series with a 3-2 victory in Section 1B play on Friday.
Red Wing had ample opportunities to take the lead, getting the leadoff batter on base in eight of the nine innings. But in what was a reoccurring theme for the Aces this season, the team could not get a timely hit, leaving a total of 11 runners stranded in the loss.
It was Red Wing that got on the board first, thanks to an opposite-field single by Zach Laffey that scored Zach Garner in the first inning. The host Knights took the lead thanks to RBI singles by Eric Pittman and Jake Mathison in the third and fourth innings, respectively.
Trying to keep the game alive in the ninth inning, the Aces relied on a pair of high schoolers to step up. Catcher Dixon Irwin led the top of the ninth off with a single. Then with one out and bases loaded, third baseman Ty Buck tied the game with a single to right field. Laffey had a chance to put Red Wing ahead, but grounded into an inning-ending double play, the third of the game for the Aces.
Red Wing's only fielding error came at the worst time as Scott Benjamin reached base to open the bottom of the ninth. Benjamin moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then went to third on a groundout, setting the table for Picha's late-game heroics.
With the win, plus Miesville's victory over Hastings on Friday, Northfield will face top-seeded Elko in Round 2 of the Section 1B playoffs. Game 1 is set for 2 p.m. Sunday.
The Knights' walk-off win ruined a strong start for Red Wing starting pitcher Aaron Stoneberg. Stoneberg went all nine innings, striking out three while allowing three walks and six hits in a losing effort. Three Aces players -- Garner, Buck and Laffey -- finished with two hits.
The Aces close out the 2014 season at 14-14 overall.