Wingers defeat Austin to win Section 1AAA baseball championship
Red Wing successfully defended its section title on Tuesday with a 6-5 victory over Austin in the Section 1AAA championship at the Red Wing Athletic Field. With the win, the Wingers will head back to the state baseball tournament for the second year in a row.
Getting back to state wasn't easy, however, as the Wingers needed to win two games on Tuesday night to get there. And against Austin, the momentum went back and forth in the close-knit game.
Both teams were ensnared in a pitcher's duel through the first three innings. Austin struck first, scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Packers started the half-inning with two soft ground-ball singles and a hit batter to load the bases. Riley Retterath hit a sac fly to score the game's first run, and Hunter Johnson hit a two-run double in the next at bat. After another single, Ross Young hit a one-out RBI double to given Austin an early 4-0 lead.
Red Wing responded with a big inning of its own in the top of the fifth, scoring six runs to take the lead, 6-4.
"Just about every time the other team scored, we came right back," said Red Wing head baseball coach Paul Hartmann. "That's just guys choosing to come together when (Austin) was making a run at us, and guys just stuck with it and stuck with each other."
The Wingers started the scoring on a two-run single coming from the bat of Teddy Lillico. Seth Yeatman hit into a fielder's choice in the next at bat, and Grant Rolen and Teddy Tauer reached safely to load the bases.
After a Marcus Walm flyout, Tre Moore smacked a three-run double down the right-field line putted Red Wing ahead, 6-4, in the top of the fifth inning.
"I had a lot of confidence going in and was thinking push (opposite field) and try to make something out of nothing with two outs," said Tre Moore. "It couldn't have felt any better."
Red Wing didn't have a batter reach base after the fifth inning, but besides a brief scare in the bottom of the fifth from Austin, the Packers were also unable to get its offense going.
Shutting down the Packer offense for the final three innings was Yeatman, who only allowed one walk and no hits in the 10 batters he faced.
"I knew going in there that I had more confidence than anybody in the whole stadium," said Yeatman. "I knew I needed to go up there and throw strikes, and my defense would pick me up behind me."
Yeatman's confidence and relative calmness were needed after a strong push from Austin in the fourth and fifth innings. Although, Yeatman wasn't the only Winger to show poise in the final two innings when it was needed most. The defense behind Yeatman was sound and in front of him, Lillico was framing the pitches well and blocking the ones that were off the mark.
"The guys just really played for each other," said Hartmann. "I think they learned a lot over the course of the season about what it takes to compete and win at a high level."
"Everyone competed hard and everyone played for each other," added Tauer.
Looking ahead, the Wingers have an idea of what to expect at the state tournament with its appearance last year and will be looking to make a deeper run in its second attempt. Red Wing's opponent is unknown at this time, but the Wingers' journey will begin on June 14 at Siebert Field in Minneapolis.
"The way we're swinging the bat right now and the way we are playing with a sense of urgency, I feel like we could definitely make a run," said Tauer.
Before Red Wing could challenge Austin for the section title, it needed to defeat Winona — a team it had lost to twice on the year and only scored one combined run against.
Scoring in this one was not a problem, however, as the Wingers went on to win, 18-7.
Tauer hit a two-run single in the top of the first inning to give Red Wing an early 2-0 lead and surpass its season-high scoring output against the Winhawks after just five at bats. The offense continued to roll from there with two more runs in the top of the fifth inning.
Winona gave a brief scare when it reclaimed the lead, 5-4, in the bottom of the fifth inning, but the Wingers quickly put an end to the threat by putting up nine runs in the next half-inning.
After Zach Harding gave Red Wing its first out in its first at bat in the sixth inning, the Wingers rattled off six singles and were hit by three pitches before another batter was called out.
In the seventh inning, Red Wing wouldn't relent as it increased its lead by another five runs to close the game out.
Harding led the Wingers, with three hits, four RBI and three runs, while Bear Blaney also recorded three hits and Tauer logged four RBI. Yeatman and Moore both hit doubles.
Tauer started the game and was given a no-decision after pitching 4 ⅔ innings. He struck out eight, walked four and gave up three hits.
Ben Kuehni earned the win after throwing just four pitches to record one out.
"We were happy that (Winona pitcher, Easton) Gamoke threw earlier in the year so we could see him. We knew we'd see him again in the playoffs," Hartmann said. "We're clicking on all cylinders right now because guys are just choosing to play and they're not stuck in their heads."