AMATEUR BASEBALL: Lamberton stamps ticket to state with victory over Springfield

LAMBERTON – The Region 2C amateur baseball tournament has been highlighted by thrilling victories, several upsets, and some of the best quality play in the area. Each of the six participating teams entered Friday with at least three games under their belt, but not a single squad had clinched a berth to the state tournament. That was all set to change on Friday.

The top three teams in the region advance to state, but four teams were still alive- Lamberton, Gibbon, Springfield, and Stark. With a myriad of possibilities left open in the round-robin tournament, only one thing was certain- the winner of Friday’s Lamberton-Springfield matchup would advance to state. In the end, it was the Longsox who played a fantastic overall game, shutting out Springfield and winning 7-0.

Lamberton had a shot to clinch state on Wednesday, but suffered a disappointing 4-1 loss at Stark, which snapped the team’s 21 game win streak. They were given another opportunity against Springfield, a team that had won all three of their region games up to that point.

The host Longsox handed the ball to lefty Shane Schoborg, who threw a complete game victory on Sunday against Sleepy Eye. Lamberton was hoping for similar results from Schoborg on Friday. He was helped by his defense all night. In the first inning, the first two Tiger batters reached, but shortstop Neil Eichten snagged a line drive out of the air and flipped to second to complete the double play.

Lamberton manufactured a couple runs in their half of the first. Eichten and Johnny Pistulka walked to start the threat. Colby Pack then hit a slow roller to short, and Pistulka beat the throw to second. The ball bounced off the second baseman’s glove and Eichten alertly hustled in from third. Holden Salfer followed that up with a sacrifice fly, giving the Longsox a two-run lead.

The home team struck for three more runs in the third. Salfer knocked in his second run with a base hit. After a run scored on an error, Derrick Jenniges beat out a fielder’s choice ground ball for an RBI, and the Longsox now held a comfortable five-run lead.

Schoborg was dealing yet again on the mound. He stranded two runners in the third, was aided by a double play in the fifth, and then stranded two more in the sixth.

Lamberton took advantage of three Tigers errors to score their sixth run in the sixth, with Salfer once more collecting an RBI. The knockout punch came in the seventh inning. Neil Eichten ripped a ball into the right center field gap and was off to the races. The ball reached the fence, and when it finally reached the cutoff man, Eichten was already sprinting around third. He easily scored on the play for an inside-the-park home run, a perfect exclamation point on the night.

Pistulka relieved Schoborg on the mound with two outs in the eighth. The Longsox starter walked only two batters and struck out six, giving up zero runs. It was a stellar performance against a deadly Tigers lineup.

With the win, the Longsox complete an incredible milestone: a sixth straight trip to the state tournament. Now that their region play is finished, they will set their sights on the next goal: an elusive state championship.

Springfield 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0: 0 11 6

Lamberton 2 0 3 0 0 1 1 0 x: 7 6 0

Hitting: Lamberton (Salfer 2-3, 3 RBI, BB; Pack 2-4, BB; N. Eichten 1-4, HR, BB)

Pitching (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO): Lamberton (Schoborg 7.2-10-0-0-2-6; Pistulka 1.2-1-0-0-0-3)