Baseball: Wingers wear down Cougars
Both Brodie Smith and Tyler DeFore were looking for that first hit.
Going into the bottom of the seventh tied 3-3 with Mankato East Saturday at the Red Wing Athletic Field, Red Wing's No. 2 and 3 hitters were a combined 0-for-5 going into the final frame as Smith stepped into the batter’s box. But Smith had a game plan and ripped a leadoff triple into the left-center gap.
“My first at-bat against (pitcher Jack Clifford) I laid down a bunt so I saw three or four pitches. I knew what he had and I was studying him in the dugout,” Smith said. “He got down right away and then left one inside and I let my hands do the work.”
With the winning run 90 feet away and working a 3-2 count, DeFore ripped a grounder through the middle of the infield for a game-winning single, helping the Wingers complete a 4-3 come-from-behind Big Nine Conference victory.
In one swing of the bat, DeFore was able to flush away what had been an afternoon of frustration.
“That's just baseball. You got to stay on your game whether you're going 0-for-4 or whatever it is,” DeFore said. “Because it might come down to you where you have that opportunity to win the game for your team. Luckily, I stayed with it the whole game and got it done.”
Perseverance became a key point not just for Smith and DeFore, but for the entire Red Wing dugout. Up 1-0 after the first following a Seth Morem sacrifice fly, things appeared to unravel in the top of the second when the Wingers committed three errors, giving up three Cougar runs in the process.
“To be honest, we were out of the game in that inning and the next inning. Everyone's heads were out of it,” said Smith, Red Wing's second baseman. “But we came together and realized we're still in a ballgame and we have a chance to win this. We knew we were the better team and that showed today.”
Ben Domagala managed to put the Wingers' defense at ease with a complete-game victory. Domagala struck out two and allowed no walks and six hits in just 76 pitches. And, the Red Wing defense did not have another error the rest of the way.
“'Big Game Ben' was outstanding the entire ballgame, and one of the things he depends on is great defense behind him,” said Wingers head coach Paul Hartmann. “It got away from us in the second inning. But to our guys' credit, they kept sticking with the plan at the plate. We had consistent at-bats up and down the lineup throughout the entire ballgame and we shored up the defense in the later innings.
“It just shows that even if you're not playing your best game, if you keep competing, you give yourself a chance to win.”
Red Wing cut the gap to 3-2 after an RBI double by Grant Rolen brought Seth Cushing home in the fourth. Then in the sixth, Cushing and Rolen started the inning with back-to-back singles, setting Seth Yeatman up with a sacrifice fly that tied the game up at 3-3.
“We just battled back, kept playing hard and just relaxed,” said Rolen, who went 2-for-3. “I was just trying to be aggressive at the plate and be as loose as possible.”
On Tuesday, Red Wing (1-1, 1-1 Big Nine) returns to the Ath to face Albert Lea.