Baseball: Blaney, Red Wing walk off St. Cloud Tech
Celebrating senior night at The Ath before the game on Monday, Red Wing had reason to celebrate again later on.
Desperately needing a clutch hit from anyone in the lineup, senior Bear Blaney came to bat in the bottom of the eighth with runners on first and second base. With two hits already in the game, facing a new pitcher didn't faze Blaney.
"I knew I was going to get a hit," Blaney said. "I knew I was going to get on base at least. All I had to do was put the ball in play."
Blaney did what he's done for most of the season, he lined a ball up the middle for a base hit. Cooper Chandler was sent home and the throw from the outfield was too late to get him. Blaney had delivered.
"It's unlike anything else," Blaney said of the feeling after watching Chandler score. "It's just great seeing everyone up in the game and enjoying it just as much as I am."
Red Wing head coach Paul Hartmann said the team has practiced walking off a few different times.
"We practiced walking off about a week ago because these guys haven't done it this year," Hartmann said. "Guys got a little taste, and sure enough we saw one tonight."
The walk-off single gave Red Wing a 3-2 win over St. Cloud Tech in eight innings.
To get to extra innings, the Wingers executed a play Hartmann said he's only called twice in his coaching career; a delayed steal of home.
"Once was last year in the state tournament and the other was tonight," Hartmann said. "You do that at any other level and it probably doesn't work."
With Marcus Walm on third and Jack Carlson on first, Carlson took off for second early and came to a near stop halfway to second. After stepping off and looking at Carlson, Walm took off for home.
The play worked as Walm scored. Had the Tiger's pitcher made a good throw to home plate, Walm likely would have been out. As it stood, Walm tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh.
The Tigers, like the Wingers, didn't have much luck finding a clutch hit. Winger Ben Kuehni was largely responsible for that as he worked all four quadrants of the strike zone and had the Tigers reaching for his offspeed stuff all night.
Able to spot his fastball on the corners, Kuehni struck out seven batters in seven innings on the mound.
Blaney said it was great to win and not waste a solid outing by Kuehni.
"(Kuehni) was stellar. That was one of his best pitching performances all year," Blaney said.
Hartmann described Kuehni as a tough-luck pitcher. However, as he's done all season, Kuehni worked deep into the game and was in control of all of his pitches.
"I think he made about two mistakes out of 105 pitches and was down in the zone," Hartmann said. "He and Marcus seemed to be in a good groove together. Him as well in the first inning seemed to be amped up as he was leaving pitches up. ... He's been Mr. Consistent for us all season."
Before the Walm scored the tying run, Hartmann alerted him he'd pitch if necessary. Kuehni reached the pitch limit after finishing the seventh and was not able to come out for the eighth. It didn't matter. Walm allowed a base hit to start the inning, but regained composure to strike out the next three batters.
Kuehni's pitching and Walm's daring baserunning, along with his inning in relief, set up Blaney's heroics. Still feeling the excitement, Blaney said the team needs to remain cautious.
"With a win like this, it's inspiring but dangerous at the same time," Blaney said. "When you come back for a win like this, you feel on top of the world and you can win any game. That's not the case. You still have to work (for every run on every pitch)."
Hartmann said the team has reacted well to adversity as of late and did so again against the Tigers.
"As long as we gave the right mentality going in, and we respond to things that happen to us during the game, I think this team has a shot," he said.
The Wingers hit the road to face Jordan on Tuesday and will open the Section 1AAA tournament on Saturday. Seeds and locations are to be determined. The section championship game is Tuesday, June 4, in Austin.