In the regular-season finale and in Game 2 of the Section 1B playoffs, the Red Wing Aces could not solve Northfield pitcher Jake Mathison.
In the regular season, Mathison kept Red Wing at bay by showing all his pitches early, keeping the Aces guessing. But in Game 2 Thursday at the Red Wing Athletic Field, the Aces waited for Mathison to start throwing his breaking ball or off-speed pitch.
They waited for a long time, perhaps too long. And with Mathison dominating on the mound, the Knights completed the 1B sweep of the Aces with a 9-2 victory.
“Mathison was throwing great. He kept us off balance by keeping us on balance,” Red Wing manager Jimmy Bohmbach said of Mathison, who had 13 strikeouts. “In the first game he threw all his pitches in the first. We were waiting for it again and he didn’t do it until the last couple innings.”
Northfield made things tough right away when Scott Benjamin scored the game’s first run on a Nick Bornhauser groundout. That was the only notable blemish on Aces’ starting pitcher Trey Eckstrom over the first three innings.
“Trey started off pretty good,” Bohmbach said. “They didn’t hit too many balls very hard.”
Then, the Knights blew the game wide open in the fourth.
Bornhauser opened the frame with a single, then the bases were loaded after Eric Pittman was hit by a pitch and Dave Picha drew a walk. That set the table for Aldon Severson, who cranked out a bases-clearing double. Severson later scored on a Luke Dahl single, and Troy Deden plated the final run of the inning on a sacrifice fly from Benjamin.
Tim Maus and Pittman crossed home in the top of the fifth, bumping the Knights’ lead to 8-0. The team’s final run came in the seventh with Severson scoring on a fielding error.
“We had two bad innings,” Bohmbach said, “and defensively, that got us in a hole. … In Game 1, we didn’t hit well until the last two innings. We haven’t hit well for the last two weeks. We needed to string a couple together.”
Mathison (9 ip, 2 walks, 7 hits allowed) limited Red Wing to two hits over the first five innings: a second-inning single from Kyle Blahnik and a Bohmbach base hit in the fourth. The Aces finally put up a pair of runs in the sixth with a two-run single by Blahnik, who reached base in all of his at-bats on Thursday.
Brady Schroeder was 2-for-4 for the Aces while JT Cunningham and Joel Newman also had hits in the loss. For Northfield, Severson was 3-for-4 with four RBI while Jake Mathison, Bornhauser and Deden all had two hits.
The fourth-seeded Knights will open a best-of-three series against the section’s top seed, Miesville, on Sunday at Jack Ruhr Field.
End the 2016 season with a 16-14 record, the Aces hope this season’s roller-coaster ride can yield some positive results when the team takes the field next year.
“I think a lot of teams go through this sort of rebuilding. We had core guys play for us for 10 years and when you lose that core, it hurts,” Bohmbach said. “We had a lot of young guys this year, a lot of young pitchers. The guys you saw in the dugout tonight, those are the guys that wanted to be here and can be that new core. Hopefully, they’ll carry that forward.”
Northfield 4, Red Wing 2
A four-run second inning provided Northfield all the cushion it needed to take Game 1 from Red Wing, 4-2, in the Section 1B playoffs Tuesday in Northfield.
Jake Mathison got the Knights on the board with a two-out, two-run triple. Nick Bornhauser followed that up with a two-run home run to right-center that made it a 4-0 game.
Red Wing came close to tying things up late in the game, starting when Adam Thygesen scored on a groundout in the eighth inning. Then in the ninth, Brodie Smith had a lead off single, eventually coming home on a single by Thygesen. The next batter, Brady Schroeder, got to first on an infield single, putting Jimmy Bohmbach in the batter’s box as the potential game-winning run. But Bohmbach would pop up for the game’s final out.
Thygesen and Smith both had a pair of hits for the Aces while Benjamin was the only Knights hitter with two hits. On the mound, Will Gustafson got the win for Northfield after striking out three with zero runs, four hits and two walks allowed over seven innings. JT Cunningham was charged with the loss for Red Wing after allowing four runs (all earned) with six hits and three walks to go with four strikeouts over seven innings.