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Baseball: Big inning bites Z-M in playoffs

Zumbrota-Mazeppa senior Kevin Niebuhr goes through his wind-up during Thursday's Section 1AA-West sub-section game against Rochester Lourdes in Rochester. The Cougars lost 9-0. Photo by Chris Harrell1 / 2
Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Michael Wicks (center) makes a throw from third base during Thursday's 9-0 loss to Rochester Lourdes at Mayo Field in Rochester. Photo by Chris Harrell2 / 2

ROCHESTER - Zumbrota-Mazeppa had a tough time eliminating blow-up innings all season.

The theme continued Thursday night as the Cougars played six solid innings against ninth-ranked (Class 2A) Rochester Lourdes and one terrible inning.

Seventh-seeded Z-M made three errors and gave up seven runs in the bottom of the fifth inning as the second-seeded Eagles won 9-0 in the quarterfinals of the Section 1AA-West sub-section tournament.

"We got a guy on and we were able to start putting a little bit of pressure on them like we like to do," Lourdes head coach Dan Herold said. "Once we got that rolling, it was a merry-go-round. We were hoping for that all game but they played seriously tough against us. We had to bite and scratch for those two runs even though one was a home run."

Kevin Niebuhr started on the mound for Z-M (5-14) and kept Lourdes at bay through the first four innings, allowing two runs on six hits and one walk. But in the fifth, the Cougars' defense fell apart and the Eagles sprayed the ball around the field as Niebuhr was forced to throw too many pitches.

"It's been kind of the story of the season: just one bad inning does us in and it kind of snowballs from there," Z-M head coach Chuck Ohm said. "I felt bad for Kevin on the mound; he made the pitches and he was doing his job and we just couldn't make the plays behind him."

The Eagles (16-3) got six shutout innings and 10 strikeouts from Nick Hanson in the victory. John Bigler was 2-for-4 with a home run, Jason Samuelson went 3-for-4 with two RBI and Michael Brandt finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored for Lourdes.

"They put the ball in play," Ohm said. "It's been kind of our season, other teams kind of find the holes and we hit it right at them.

"They have a nice team, very athletic. They made some nice plays, they ran down some balls. That's the way you play baseball."

The Cougars finished with three hits Thursday as Jacob Ugland, Cody Heitman and Jordan Thompson each tallied a single in three at-bats. Z-M had one player reach second base in the loss.

The Eagles scored a run in the first inning on a single by Brandt and took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a leadoff home run by Bigler. Lourdes had a chance to end the game early in the fifth inning leading 9-0 with the bases loaded and one out, but a strikeout and a groundout ended the inning. The Eagles also had runners on second and third with one out in the sixth inning.

Lourdes advances to play 11th-ranked and third-seeded Cannon Falls at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Stewartville. The Eagles defeated the Bombers 1-0 last Saturday at Mayo Field as Brandt threw a shutout with nine strikeouts.

"It was a wonderful baseball game if you like the game of baseball," Herold said. "We scratched a run in the third inning and it held up. We know their top four kids are good hitters and they can move runners along down low. They're tremendously coached by Bucky (Lindow); I respect him an awful lot. They like to play a lot of the same type of baseball that we do so it's kind of fun watching. Those are the types games you like to coach in."

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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