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Amateur Baseball: Northfield beats Red Wing, forces Game 3

Red Wing starting pitcher Brady Schroeder watches a toss head home during the second inning of Tuesday's Section 1B playoff game against Northfield at the Red Wing Athletic Field. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Red Wing shortstop Zach Garner tags second base and throws to first to complete a double play in the first inning of Thursday's Section 1B playoff game against Northfield at Red Wing. The Knights forced a Game 3 by beating the Aces 5-1. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

At this point, there aren’t many surprises between the Red Wing Aces and Northfield Knights.

In the last nine days, Red Wing and Northfield have played four times, with both teams going 2-2 in that span. After the Aces took Game 1 in their Section 1B first-round series, the Knights fought off elimination with a 5-1 victory Tuesday at the Red Wing Athletic Field.

“They’re a good team, and they got a lot of college players on their team,” said Red Wing first baseman Kyle Blahnik. “They come up (to the plate) with a good plan. There are some things we still need to shore up.”

Riding a complete-game performance from starting pitcher Dave Picha, Northfield forced the decisive third game in the best-of-3 series, which will take place at 8 p.m. Friday in Northfield.

The Aces were dejected after missing their chance to advance Tuesday, but if last year’s state team is any indication, Red Wing has been battle-tested in elimination games.

“Last year, both of our series went three games (against Hastings and Miesville), so we’re familiar with it,” said Aces manager Jimmy Bohmbach. “We have to work hard and we have to come into Friday ready to battle.”

Red Wing jumped on the board first, thanks to a standup double by Zach Laffey that brought Ty Buck home from first base. The towering shot by Laffey would be the only major threat for Picha, who held the Aces to four hits and three walks with six strikeouts in nine innings of work.

“(Picha) was getting ahead early with his fastball,” said Blahnik, who had the Aces’ first hit in the third inning on the way to a 1-for-4 night. “He held off on his curve until later, at least when I faced him, and he was hitting his spots with his fastball and changeup.”

With the Aces’ hitters in check, Northfield started to roll offensively, starting with a double by Aldon Severson that scored Chris Paradise in the fifth inning. Then in the sixth, the Knights capitalized on Red Wing blunders. Severson drew a bases-loaded walk, and a fielding error allowed Picha to score in the next at-bat.

Up 3-1 in the top of the eighth, the Knights tacked on two more runs. While Scott Benjamin went to second for a double, a Red Wing throwing error allowed Severson to reach home. The next batter, Tim Maas, brought in Benjamin with an RBI single.

Fighting off three errors was tough enough for the Aces, but with 10 Northfield hits added to the mix, it made for a rough night for pitchers Brady Schroeder (5 2/3 innings, seven hits allowed, five walks, three runs allowed, one earned) and JT Cunningham (2 1/3 IP, 2 R, 3 H).

“Our pitchers threw great, but they did a great job of extending the count,” Bohmbach said. “We didn’t help ourselves with the errors, either.”

Blahnik, Laffey, Adam Thygesen and Steve Boldt each had hits for the Aces in the loss. Maas led the Knights by going 3-for-5, while Severson and Benjamin each finished with two hits for the Knights.

Now, the two teams will meet up one more time with their respective seasons on the line.

“It’ll be nice to finally be done with these guys (after Friday), but we’re going to have to play pretty well to win it,” Blahnik said. 

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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