PREP BASEBALL: Fighting to the finish
YME forces second game against Adrian/Ellsworth; Dragons defeat Sting on walk-off walk to punch ticket to state
MILROY — The Yellow Medicine East baseball team had put together its strongest play when it needed it the most, with the Sting winning three straight games all in the consolation bracket of the Section 3A tournament. Meanwhile, their opponent, sixth-seeded (South bracket) Adrian/Ellsworth, had seen its own magical run in the tournament, as the Dragons took down several top teams of their own for both teams to reach the section championship game on Thursday.
Needing two victories against the Dragons to keep their season alive, the second-seeded (North bracket) Sting out-dueled Adrian/Ellsworth 3-2 in the first game to force a winner-take-all second game. In the final game, the two teams battled it out to the tune of a 3-3 tie going into the bottom of the seventh inning, but it would be the Dragons who punched their ticket to state with a 4-3 victory on a walk-off walk with the bases loaded.
YME ends its season with an 18-7 record.
Adrian/Ellsworth 4, YME 3 (Game 2)
The Dragons jumped out to an early lead, loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first before an RBI groundout made it 1-0, but YME starter Bryce Sneller was able to get out of the jam and prevent any further damage with a strikeout and a flyout.
A couple of innings later, A/E had another strong chance to get on the board when it used a single, a hit batter and a walk to load the bases again with no outs. The Dragons were able to draw a walk on the ensuing batter to plate a run, but Sting reliever Ty Schulte got three straight outs, including two strikeouts, to escape the jam and limit the damage.
Looking to use its strong defense as momentum, YME got a pair of baserunners aboard when Nolan Hildahl and Tyler Nordaune each got hit by a pitch before Hunter Wilke drew a walk to load the bases. Caleb Jans then brought in a run on an infield single before Nikson Knapper drew a walk of his own to tie things up at 2-2, but Adrian/Ellsworth would get out of the jam with three straight outs to keep things deadlocked.
The tie wouldn’t last long, though, as the Dragons reached on an error with one out before a walk and a wild pitch put runners in scoring position. A sacrifice fly then gave Adrian/Ellsworth a 3-2 lead after four.
After a scoreless fifth, YME got a good start to the sixth when Wilke drew a walk, stole second and advanced to third on the errant throw. Knapper then placed a blooper along the third base line to plate the tying run, but the Dragons were able to get out of the inning and preserve the tie.
The deadlocked score would remain intact until the bottom of the seventh, where Adrian/Ellsworth would piece together a rally with one out. With two outs and the bases loaded, the Dragons were able to plate the game-winning run on a walk to seal its spot at the Class A tournament.
Knapper led YME with a hit and two RBI while Jans added two hits and an RBI and Hildahl added a hit.
Schulte took the loss in relief, going five innings while allowing three runs and struck out six.
Adrian/Ellsworth 2 (Game 1)
Neither side could find scoring right away in the first matchup, but YME got things started in the second when Schulte got an RBI double to give the Sting a 1-0 lead. YME then added another run on its next at-bat, as Jans got a leadoff double before the Sting capitalized on two Dragon errors to push its advantage to 2-0.
Adrian/Ellsworth wouldn’t go down without a fight, though, and used a pair of walks and an RBI single in the bottom half of the inning to draw to within one. After a scoreless fourth, the Dragons got a single to lead off the bottom of the fifth before an RBI double tied things up at 2-2 after five.
Both sides couldn’t take advantage of a baserunner in their next trips to the plate, leaving the game to be decided in the final frame. YME got the seventh started with a Wilke walk before an error on a pickoff attempt and a wild pitch put Wilke in scoring position. Jans then drew a walk and stole second and Knapper would step up and hit a fly ball to the outfield for an out, but it was deep enough to plate the go-ahead run and make it 3-2 YME.
In need of a spark to force extra innings, the Dragons got a good start to the bottom of the seventh by reaching on an error before a sacrifice put them in scoring position with one out. But Knapper escaped the jam and got a flyout and a strikeout to end the game and seal the victory to force the winner-take-all Game 2.
Schulte led YME with a hit and an RBI while Jans and Nordaune each added a hit and Knapper had an RBI.
Knapper also earned the victory on the mound, going seven innings while allowing two runs on four hits and struck out eight.