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No. 1 YME advances past TMB on sixth-inning rally

Photo by Jake McNeill: Yellow Medicine East third baseman Connor Fagen makes the game-sealing tag at third in the Sting's 4-2 3A Section Tournament win over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton at Milroy Yankee Field Tuesday afternoon.

MILROY – The No. 6 Tracy-Milroy-Balaton seemed poised to continue its Cinderella run in its third-round matchup against No. 1 Yellow Medicine East in the 3A Section Tournament at Yankee Field Tuesday afternoon. The Panthers defeated No. 3 Minneota and No. 2 Murray County Central over the weekend and held a 2-0 lead over YME through five innings. Yet, the Sting came alive in the bottom of the sixth to score four runs and held on for a 4-2 win.

“[TMB] has played really, really good baseball all year long and we knew this was going to be a dogfight coming in,” YME head coach Trevor Schulte said. “We just kind of kept going. We were getting a little out of what we normally do. We were probably a little impatient at times at the plate… but we hung in there and got back to having a good plan at the plate.”

YME had survived another scare against TMB on May 22, also putting together a sixth-inning rally to take a 7-6 win. 

Jake Odegard started the YME rally on Tuesday with a leadoff walk and advanced to third on a Landon Anderson single. From there, Almich put down a sacrifice bunt. Alex Schuh looked Odegard back to third before throwing Almich out at first, but Odegard sprinted back to home and was ruled safe on a close call at the plate, cutting the Panthers’ lead down to 2-1. 

“Running that safety squeeze kind of set things up because we were able to get some guys in motion and start to quicken the pace a little bit and be a little bit more aggressive on the bases,” Schulte said. “I think that helped break the door open and get our kids really to relax just a little bit more and just go back to playing baseball and having fun.”

TMB head coach said the throw to the plate was a bit slow, but overall was satisfied with his team’s defensive effort in the game.

“I think it helped that we changed our looks up all the time… We kind of straight up ran into our own face,” Fultz said. “They have a very, very good lineup and you’re not going to shut them out. You’re going to have to beat them and score six to eight runs and we just didn’t have the offense.”

A Connor Fagen pop out left Anderson at second with two outs, but Andrew Flaten came up big with a double to left field and scored Anderson from second to tie up the game. 

“First pitch, he just puts it over the heart of the plate, so just swing away and hope something good happens,” Flaten said of his approach in the at-bat. “As soon as I started swinging, I knew that was going down… I just knew that Cody was going to come in and throw a great last inning and that I could start to relax a little bit.”

TMB intentionally walked Cody Dahlager to put runners on first and second and Braden Nelson hit a single to left field to score Flaten and put the Sting on top. After Bryce Sneller walked to load the bases, Nolan Hildahl drew a walk to force Dahlager in and put the Sting up 4-2.

Dahlager also closed the game on the mound, throwing three scoreless innings and limiting the Panthers to two hits. He also struck out five of the 10 batters he faced.

“When we’re in the outfield, one thing we always hate is when people throw balls. I just refuse to throw balls,” Dahlager said. 

In the top of the seventh with one last chance to force extra innings, Connor Lanoue doubled to center field to get in scoring position with one out and the tying run at the plate. A strikeout put TMB’s back against the wall and, when Jeret Ankrum singled to third base, Lanoue was caught in a pickle trying to advance and was tagged out attempting to dive into the bag, ending the game.

YME had dominated the first two rounds of the tournament, outsourcing its opponents by a margin of 41-1. Still, the Sting didn’t let the early success get to their head.

“Our kids are pretty good about going one game at a time and once one game is done, put it behind them and move on to the next one,” Schulte said. “Win or lose, no matter how they do at the plate, it’s kind of what we preach.”

The Panthers took the lead in the third inning and held onto it until late in the game. Ankrum kicked off the inning with a ground-ball single to left field before stealing first and second base. From there, he crossed the plate on a line drive to center field by Tanner Hauger to put TMB on top. With one out, Hauger advanced to second on a wild pitch. However, Adam Stengel flashed his glove to grab a Noah Knakmuhs line drive towards the first-second base gap and tagged second base before Hauger could get back to stop the bleeding.

Knakmuhs started on the mound and threw three scoreless innings for the Panthers. He held a loaded YME lineup to two hits and a walk while striking out two batters. 

“What we tried to do is just give their hitters a different one each time,” Fultz said of the Panthers’ pitching changes. “Each guy has sort of slightly different timings. Some throw a little harder, a little softer, some are left-handers, just trying to give them as many looks as possible and keep them on their front foot.”

TMB scored its second run of the game in the fourth inning. After an inauspicious start to the inning with a fly out and a ground out, Ashton Squires started the rally with a single to left field and advanced to third on a single from Jacob Meyer. Alex Schuh drew a walk to load the bases and Squires capitalized on a wild pitch to put the Panthers up 2-0 before the inning ended on a fly out to center field.

The Panthers have had defensive struggles on the season but have cleaned up their play as of late. They committed just one error in Tuesday’s game.

“We talked a lot on Monday, we had a lot of errors over the weekend and still played well enough to win,” Fultz said. “Guys really locked in, got a lot of defensive reps yesterday. That should help and familiarity with the ballpark helped out a lot.”

Drew Almich threw four innings for the Sting before being pulled for Cody Dahlager. He threw 79 pitches on the day, allowing two earned runs on six hits and a pair of walks while striking out two batters. On the offensive end, Almich also singled twice. 

The Panthers’ offense came out swinging. Travis Willhite singled in the second inning and, with two outs, Squires reached on an error and Meyer walked to load the bases. Yet, a fly out ended the early TMB scoring opportunity. 

Yellow Medicine East put together an early scoring opportunity in the bottom of the third inning. After a fly out to start the inning, Dahlager reached on an error and advanced to second when Braden Nelson walked. From there, Dahlager advanced to third on a Bryce Sneller fielder’s choice, but he could not cross home after a fly out ended the inning. 

Ankrum pitched two innings of relief for TMB, allowing one hit and two walks with a strikeout.

Alex Munson and Lanoue pitched the sixth inning for TMB. Munson pitched 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on two hits and a pair of walks, while Lanoue got the last out on a strikeout after allowing a hit and two walks. 

Yellow Medicine East will compete in the 3A semifinals at Yankee Field on Saturday at noon. They’ll take on the winner of No. Russell-Tyler-Ruthton and No. 2 Central Minnesota Christian. 

“We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Just keep practicing, keep at it,” Schulte said. “Maybe we’ve got some things that we’ve got to work on offensively. We’ve got some things to work on defensively, too. It’s never over. We’ve still got to keep showing up, getting our work in, getting comfortable with the fine-tuning.”

Tracy-Milroy-Balaton will look for redemption in the elimination bracket, playing No. 5 Lakeview at the Milroy Irish Yard on Thursday at 5 p.m.


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