Baseball: Wingers advance to second round
Through 13 games this season, Red Wing had won just two games. Since May 13, however, the Wingers had won three of five, including victories over Missota Conference rival New Prague and fellow Section 1AAA member Winona.
What was the difference between a team that had lost eight-straight games, and the one heading into the playoffs on a bit of a roll?
“It’s the team chemistry, everyone is so close together, playing for the people next to them and not for themselves, just caring about each other hoping each other does well,” said senior pitcher Cody Leitner after the seventh-seeded Wingers’ 6-0 victory over 10th-seeded Austin on Thursday.
Much of that change can be heard in the dugout with Red Wing up to bat. The noise has increased over the past two weeks, and is a fountain of positivity. Players routinely talk about picking each other up, and high-fives are given equally for doubles blasted into the gaps and for bunts dropped to move a teammate into scoring position.
“These guys have bought in,” Hartmann said. “They’re playing for each other, they’re becoming teammates as I told them two weeks ago. They’re caring about each other. It’s easy to say that, it’s another thing to feel it and go out there and do it. These guys want to win for each other, and it’s a lot of fun to see that.”
Leitner has been solid all season, but some bad luck and some bad defense kept his record below what it could be. But now the luck has changed, as has the defense. With another complete game shutout, his third straight including last week’s no-hitter, Leitner’s scoreless streak has hit 20 games, a stat Hartmann calls “outstanding for a high school pitcher.”
“I felt pretty good out there today,” Leitner said after giving up four hits and three walks on Thursday. “It’s good to win and get another game with all the seniors and everyone else, too.”
But for all of Leitner’s talents, he still needs at least one run to pick up a win. And the Wingers gave him more than that in the third inning.
Cam Voigt and Gunnar Tubbs started the inning off with singles, and were advanced to second and third on Corey Hawe’s sacrifice bunt. Then, four straight singles from Jakob Meyer, Dixon Irwin, Ty Buck and Thate Peterson had consecutive RBI singles to blow the inning open. Buck was the final run to cross when Tait Kelly reached on an error. Buck also added an RBI single in the fourth.
Leitner finished with four strikeouts, including three straight to end the game after a single and a walk gave the Packers some hope in the seventh.
Reaching the double-elimination portion of the tournament, Red Wing is set to face second-seeded Rochester John Marshall on 1 p.m. Saturday at John Adams Middle School. The Rockets, who had a first-round bye in the section tournament, come into Saturday’s game a with a 16-4 record.
In the rest of the section, the remaining higher seeds that played in the first round lost. Ninth-seeded Faribault beat eighth-seeded Hastings, 11-9, No. 12 Lakeville South edged No. 5 Farmington, 4-3, and No. 11 Winona got by No. 6 Rochester Century, 4-3.
That sets up a second round that will have Faribault visiting top-seeded Owatonna, South travelling to No. 4 Northfield, and Winona heading to No. 3 Rochester Mayo. All games are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.