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Baseball: Albert Lea shuts out Red Wing in section-opener

Red Wing's Taite Shelstad throws to first after touching second to complete to the doubleplay in a Section 1AAA game on May 25. Martin Schlegel / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Red Wing outfielder Deso Buck drives a ball to center field during a Section 1AAA game on May 25. Martin Schlegel / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Red Wing's Ben Kuehni throws a ball to first base after a fielding a bunt in a Section 1AAA game on May 25. Martin Schlegel / RiverTown Multinedia3 / 4
Red Wing's Jack Carlson (16) reaches for a throw from the outfield to double off the runner retreating to first base. Red Wing fell to Albert Lea 2-0 in a Section 1AAA game on May 25. Martin Schlegel / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

In all but two innings, Red Wing had at least one runner on base. Yet, nothing materialized in the form of runs as the Wingers fell 2-0 to Albert Lea in Section 1AAA first round baseball action on Saturday.

The Wingers couldn't score, but it wasn't for a lack of hitting. The Wingers had five hits and nine total baserunners.

"I think we were just waiting for that one big one for our dugout to explode and give us some added confidence," said Red Wing head coach Paul Hartmann.

As Hartmann told his players after the game, the plate approaches were solid. The Wingers, up and down the lineup, hit the ball hard. Unfortunately for the Wingers, the balls they hit were either right at someone or a Tiger fielder made a nice play.

"There's nothing we are going to change in terms of our approach, or in terms of the way we went about our at-bats," Hartmann said. "I thought we had consistent at-bats up and down the lineup, whether we were working a walk or fouling off on two strikes, we were hitting the ball hard."

Sophomore Caden Benway had two of the team's five hits. In all three of his at-bats, Benway went to right field. Taite Luhman hit a double to deep left center in the fourth inning. Even though no runs came of Benway or Luhman's hits, it was encouraging for Hartmann to see.

"'Use the whole field' is a phrase we use a lot," Hartmann said. "Caden's power alley is right center. He's hit a lot of balls hard to right center. He's had some big hits and come up big for us this year."

Hartman added, "(Luhamn) had some injuries that held him back a little bit this year, but we have confidence in him. He's a kid that we needed last year to make the state tournament run, and we'll need hits like that from to help make another."

Two batters into the game, the Tigers grabbed a 1-0 on a walk and RBI triple. In the third, the Tigers added their second run on two Winger errors. From there, Winger pitcher Ben Kuehni didn't allow another Tiger runner reach third base until the sixth.

"Ben was absolutely outstanding on the mound today," Hartmann said. "We just didn't support him enough."

Things could have gotten out of hand for the Wingers in the top of the sixth. The Tigers, with runners on the corners and one out, were looking to put the game away with an insurance run or two. Tiger Jack Jellinger grounded a ball hard up the middle to shortstop Taite Shelstad, who took the first out himself before firing a throw to first to complete the double play.

The smooth fielding of Shelstad kept the Wingers in it and in the bottom half, Benway led off with his second hit. Cooper Chandler pinch ran for him, but was promptly picked off at first.

"In the section tournament, the team that makes the fewest mistakes usually is the team that wins, and we made a couple more than they did," Hartman said.

Red Wing remains alive in the section tournament. Up next is top-seeded Austin, who won 10-1 over No. 6 Kasson-Mantorville on Saturday. The Wingers face the Packers on Tuesday in Austin at 5 p.m.

"The great thing is this tournament is (it's) double-elimination," Hartmann said. "We were in this position last year."