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Amateur Baseball: Longtime teammates help Aces cruise

Red Wing pitcher Aaron Johnson (right) is congratulated by teammates after capping off a complete-game victory during Game 1 of the Section 1B playoffs Sunday against Hastings in Red Wing. Johnson finished with 15 strikeouts in the Aces' 6-3 victory.1 / 3
Red Wing's Alex Quiding slides into third after a hit by teammate Adam Thygesen (not pictured) during the second inning of Sunday's Section 1B playoff game against Hastings at the Red Wing Athletic Field.2 / 3
Red Wing third baseman Tyler Goering sets up for a throw to first base during Sunday's Section 1B first-round playoff game against Hastings in Red Wing. The Aces won Game 1, 6-3.3 / 3

Throughout high school, college and amateur ball, Aaron Johnson and Adam Thygesen have played on the baseball diamond together.

“It’s been fun for us,” Johnson said, describing his time as a teammate with Thygesen at Red Wing High School, Southwest Minnesota State University and the Red Wing Aces. “I went to Southwest and he ended up coming, too. We were roommates for two years in college, and we still got the Aces.”

And with the aide of the longtime teammates, Red Wing secured its first win of the Section 1B playoffs as the third-seeded Aces handled sixth-seeded Hastings 6-3 Sunday at the Red Wing Athletic Field to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

“We managed to find a way, and it’s good to get that first one under our belt,” said Red Wing co-manager Andy Gibart.

The Aces (29-5) will go for the sweep Tuesday when they head to Hastings. The game is slated for an 8 p.m. start.

In two previous meetings with the Hawks, Red Wing had no trouble disposing of its Classic Cannon Valley League foe, outscoring Hastings 21-5 in a season sweep. But the Hawks’ bats showed life on Sunday with eight hits, and the Aces did themselves no favors with three errors.

“Sometimes, the mark is a good team is winning when you’re not at your best,” said Thygesen, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI. “Even with a game like this, it’s encouraging since if we’re playing at our best, it’s nearly impossible to beat us.”

The Aces went up 2-0 in the first inning thanks to an RBI single by Zach Laffey and a sacrifice fly by Kyle Blahnik, Johnson ran into trouble in the top of the third after Hastings’ Brandon Morgan sent a fastball over the left-field fence for a two-run home run.

Instead of getting down, Johnson got mad. Then, he got even.

“The biggest thing (the home run) did for me was it fueled me a little more,” Johnson said, “and luckily, I was able to work through it.”

After the shaky third, Johnson proved to be the ace the team is hoping for in the postseason. The hard-throwing left-hander went all nine innings, racking up 15 strikeouts in the victory.

“After (Morgan) hit that home run, we knew it would be a ball game,” Gibart said, “and we knew Aaron would be able to handle it. … It was a typical Aaron start: Hastings got a few scrub hits but he was blowing guys away.”

With Johnson dealing on the mound, Red Wing’s offense was able to start rolling in the fifth inning. Jimmy Bohmbach started with a two-out single, then the next batter, Laffey, drove a ball to the right-field fence that was mishandled by the Hawks’ fielder, allowing Bohmbach to score. The Aces went up 4-2 with another run in the sixth on an RBI double by Thygesen.

“Adam’s our table setter,” Gibart said. “We’re pumped to have him playing as well as he has this season. It gives us a big advantage in this playoff push.”

Dave Jenson drove in another run to give the Aces a three-run lead in the bottom of the seventh. Things got dicey for Red Wing in the top of the eighth as the Hawks added a run thanks to two Aces errors. But with Colin Coan on second base with no outs, Johnson blew Hastings’ next three batters away, tallying three straight strikeouts to neutralize the threat.

Holding a 5-3 lead, Red Wing added one more run in the bottom of the eighth when a base hit by Steve Boldt brought home Thygesen.

Laffey finished 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI, Dave Jenson went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored, and Boldt had two hits, one run and an RBI in the Aces’ victory.

Jordy Horsch went 3-for-5 for the Hawks (12-16). Jose Velez was pegged with the loss after allowing 12 hits, five walks and six runs (five earned) in eight innings of work.

It was a tighter game than anticipated on Sunday, but with the team’s aspirations set on a state championship, Red Wing welcomes the competition.

“Yeah, they’re the No. 6 seed, but no one can be taken lightly,” Thygesen said. “We’re looking forward to Game 2, and we’re anxious to pick up another win to move on.”

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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