AMATEUR BASEBALL: Grand march
Minneota uses grand slam to complete comeback over Cottonwood, then powers past Rosen to advance in Region 9C tournament
ROSEN — The Minneota amateur baseball team struggled to find hitting last weekend to begin the Region 9C tournament. With their backs against the wall, the Mudhens delivered and did so in a powerful manner. While the outcomes took different approaches, the message remained the same for Minneota: hit the ball. Hard.
Using a combined 24 hits that scored 27 total runs in two games, the Mudhens rallied from an 11-2 deficit to stun Cottonwood 12-11 on Saturday before rolling past Rosen 15-4 on Sunday in a pair of elimination-game victories in Rosen to keep their season alive.
Minneota’s Adam Durfee said they just have a lot of confidence in each other and know that everybody will do their part.
“I think the biggest part is just having faith in the guy in front of you and faith in the guy behind you and knowing that you just have to do your job,” Durfee said. “Whether it’s a home run or a bunt single, you just do your part and know that people will come around and do their part too.”
Durfee was a huge contributor in the Mudhens’ wins this weekend. He collected seven total hits, four of them coming on home runs — including a go-ahead grand slam against Cottonwood — as well as recording 14 RBI. He also tossed five innings on Saturday while allowing two hits and struck out nine.
“Durfee’s a prime-time player. He’s an incredible baseball player and has just got the clutch gene in him. When there was two outs and the bases loaded when he came up, there’s nobody else you want up besides Adam Durfee because he’s got a shot at taking it deep every time he’s up there. He got a pitch he liked and got ahold of it, put it up in the jetstream and the rest took care of itself,” Minneota manager Tyson Sonnenburg said. “He means so much to this team and we’re so glad to have him back this year at shortstop; we wish we could have pitched him more this season a little bit, but then obviously what he brings to the plate is incredible.”
A critical comeback
Minneota entered Saturday’s game coming off a tough 9-1 loss to Dumont last Sunday while Cottonwood was fresh off a bitter loss of its own after falling to Chokio 8-7 the week before. In a display of power (some of it grand), lots of offense and a never-say-die attitude from either side, both teams and their fans saw it all in their matchup. Four home runs were hit, including grand slams by both teams, but a final blast by Durfee helped the Mudhens earn the come-from-behind win after trailing by as many as nine runs in the seventh inning.
Sonnenburg said despite the massive deficit, he was proud of the way his team continued to work together and get the key runs they needed to keep their season going another day.
“Anytime you get down 11-2 it’s really tough to come back from that, especially mentally because it takes a lot out of you, but we’ve got a good group of guys and we’ve never just given up on each other,” Sonnenburg said. “We just tried to chip away and had a couple of big innings and Durfee came up big with a shot at the end; it was an exciting game, that’s for sure.”
After a couple of empty innings to begin the game, the offense picked up in the third frame, as Cottonwood’s Jordan Fischer and Chris Berg drew walks and Cody St. Aubin was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs before Jacob Rausch was hit by a pitch to bring in a run and give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. That advantage didn’t last long, though, as Jake Leighton got aboard before Durfee smacked a two-run shot to left to put the Mudhens in front at 2-1 after three.
Minneota continued to hold a one-run lead until the sixth, when the Cardinals broke out the bats. Seth Plotz got things started by drawing a walk before Kolin Hanson connected on a single and Seth Boerboom loaded the bases with a walk of his own. Noah Jensen tied things up by reaching on an error before a walk by Brad Boerboom and a wild pitch brought in two more runs to make it 4-2. St. Aubin was hit by a pitch to score a run and load the bases again and a couple of batters later, Rausch stepped up and delivered a huge hit by drilling a grand slam. Moments later, Plotz added to the power presentation with a solo home run to give Cottonwood back-to-back trips around the bases and a 10-2 lead, capping a ninth-run sixth for the Cardinals. The Cottonwood offense wasn’t done there, using a two-out single by Jordan Fischer in the seventh to set up an RBI single by Berg to push its lead to 11-2.
Cottonwood manager Jason Fischer said in the big inning they were able to take advantage of getting baserunners aboard and get a couple of key hits to plate the runs after struggling to find offense early on.
“I think we were fortunate that their pitchers started to get a little wild, walked a few guys, hit a couple of guys and gave us a chance to get some baserunners on and then we got a couple of big hits,” coach Fischer said. “Before that we weren’t hitting the ball much but they were putting a few guys on and we were getting close each inning, but it’s just one of those things. With the wind blowing out like it was, anything in the air is going to get out of here and good things will happen.”
In need of a massive spark, especially since they only had one hit on the game at that point, the Mudhens began to piece together a small rally in the bottom of the seventh. A walk by Alex Pohlen and a single from Danny Hennen paved the way for back-to-back RBI singles by Sam and Beau Buysse before Leighton brought in another run on a sacrifice fly to make it 11-5. Minneota then got an RBI single by Sonnenburg before another run scored on an error on the same play to cut the deficit to four at 11-7.
After Cottonwood went down in order in the top half of the eighth, Minneota looked to keep its momentum going. Pohlen once again started the rally attempt with a walk before base hits by Hennen and Brock Buysse loaded the bases with no outs. A walk by Beau Buysse would bring in a run to make it 11-8, but the Cardinals got a pair of outs. Down to their final chance of the frame, Durfee stepped to the plate and answered Cottonwood’s big-time homer with a grand slam blast of his own to left, giving him his second go-ahead home run of the day and a 12-11 lead for the Mudhens.
With the crowd in disbelief in different ways, the two teams entered the ninth, with Minneota now looking to get three quick outs to secure the victory. Cottonwood, on the other hand, needed to get a rally going of its own and got a good start with a walk by Jensen and a sacrifice bunt by Brad Boerboom to put the tying run on second with one out. But that would be the closest the Cardinals got on the basepaths, as Minneota reliever Zach Nuy got two quick outs to end the game and complete the comeback by the Mudhens.
Despite the tough finish to their season, coach Fischer said they were doing a good job of making the plays in the field in the first few innings but added a string of mistakes late hurt their chances of keeping Minneota at bay.
“I thought we got out to a good pitching start and defensively made the plays through the first few innings. We finally let them out of a couple of holes and put a big spot on them and got a big lead and they’re a good ballclub and you could tell the game wasn’t over,” coach Fischer said. “They just kept nibbling away and we had an inning where we didn’t make the plays; I think we had four errors in one inning and when that happens and you give up five or six runs, they were able to get back into the game. Durfee’s a good player, he hits two balls out, bases are loaded and you’ve got your best hitter up, that’s what you want if you’re their team, but we did the best we could.”
Berg led the way for Cottonwood with two hits and an RBI while Rausch and Plotz each had a hit on the home runs and combined for five RBI and Jordan Fischer and Hanson added a hit apiece.
Seth Boerboom took the loss on the mound, going seven innings while allowing seven runs on five hits and struck out four.
Hennen and Sonnenburg each had two hits, with Sonnenburg collecting an RBI while Sam, Brock and Beau Buysse combined for three hits and three RBI, but it was Durfee’s three hits, including two home runs, and six RBI that set the tone for Minneota’s offense.
Even more power
With the momentum of Saturday’s big win in their back pockets, the Mudhens headed back to Rosen on Sunday to face the hometown Express in the next round of the consolation bracket. This time, Minneota jumped out of the starting gates right away, as Sonnenburg connected on a two-run home run in the first inning to put the Mudhens up 2-0. The visiting Mudhens kept things going in the next frame, getting the bases loaded before Durfee brought in a run on a sacrifice fly. Sonnenburg then reached on an error to score a run before Austin Buysse reached on a fielder’s choice to plate another to make it 5-0.
Minneota’s bats continued to stay hot in the top of the third, as Hennen lined a one-out double and Beau Buysse was hit by a pitch before Leighton brought both runners in with a double. Durfee followed that up with a two-run blast of his own to push the Mudhens’ advantage to 9-0.
Rosen wouldn’t go down without a fight, however, scoring a run in the fourth and two in the sixth to cut the deficit to 9-3. But Minneota answered right back with three runs of its own in the next half-inning, with the Mudhens loading the bases before Leighton reached on a fielder’s choice and Durfee hit a two-run single to extend the lead to 12-3. The Express then got a run back in the bottom of the frame on an RBI double.
After an empty eighth inning, Minneota capped the ninth with three more runs, all coming from the bat of Durfee’s second home run of the day for the second consecutive day to bring it to the 15-4 final.
Durfee led Minneota with four more hits on Sunday, including the two homers, and collected eight RBI while Leighton added a hit and three RBI and Sonnenburg had a hit and two RBI. Brock Buysse added three hits while Hennen and Austin DeVlaeminck each had two hits as well for Minneota.
Minneota will now face Chokio this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Rosen in an elimination game. The Mudhens defeated the Coyotes 5-3 in 11 innings in their first meeting on June 28.