Nine run 8th inning helps MCC eliminate TMB 13-5

Photo by Chris Drummond: Murray County Central shortstop and pitcher Derek Kluis trots around the bases after his home run during the Rebels’ 13-5 win over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in the 3A Section Tournament elimination bracket Saturday afternoon.

MILROY– After an hour delay and relocation of fields in Milroy, the Murray County Central baseball team defeated the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers 13-5 in the 3A elimination bracket on Saturday afternoon. After the seventh inning ended with a 4-4 tie, the Rebels used a nine-run eighth inning to advance to the elimination bracket championship game against the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Knights, a rematch of last year’s elimination bracket championship which RTR won 1-0.

It was a rough start for the Panthers as the Rebels scored two first-inning runs. After Carter Benda walked and Derek Kluis doubled, Christian Tentinger hit a two-run double to get the Rebels off to an early lead.

Kluis also doubled in the top of the second and was once again driven in by Tentinger, this time on a single to make the score 3-1.

The Panthers responded as they have done all postseason and Tanner Hauger hit a single to drive in Alex Schuh and put TMB on the board in the top of the first. Hauger also singled in the bottom of the third to score Jeret Ankrum and bring TMB within one run.

One inning later, Jacob Meyer doubled to left field to score Ashton Squires and tie the game. From there, Alex Schuh reached first on an error and Meyer took advantage to score the go-ahead run and put the Panthers up 4-3.

Trailing with the game on the line in the sixth inning, Krew Schneider started an MCC rally with a leadoff single. Teague Meyer came in to pinch run and advanced to second on Tanner Graphenteen’s sacrifice bunt. Benda walked to set up a force, but Derek Kluis came up with another big hit, singling to left field to drive in Meyer and tie the game.

Kluis also went in and pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run and one hit while striking out six batters, and got out of a tight jam in the seventh where Tentinger threw out a potential go-ahead runner on third base and force extra innings.

In the top of the eighth, MCC had an offensive explosion.

“We had to battle through the end and our seniors led us in that eighth inning like they’ve done all year,” Rebels assistant coach Paul Counter said. “We had a few mistakes early to let them back in it. Without Tentinger throwing the guy out at the third base, we may not have had the chance to score as we did in the eighth. Hitting is contagious and that eighth inning was huge. Kluis is competitive and loves to win. He’s our guy and he’s our leader. When you get to this point, every team you face will be tough. We got to clean up some mistakes to give ourselves a chance against RTR.”

The offensive assault started with Schneider reaching on an error and scoring on Benda’s single to break the tie. Kluis would then connect on a fastball to get his first home run in varsity competition and extend the Rebels’ lead to 7-4.

“It was a good pitch and it was a fastball that he just left up a little bit,” Kluis said. “I got ahold of it and personally, that’s the best I’ve ever hit a ball. It felt good. Got the team going and we scored a bunch of runs after that.”

Abe Paulzine followed that at-bat with an RBI triple. Paulzine also started the game on the mound, throwing 3 1/3 innings with two earned runs on six hits and no walks. He also struck out three batters.

Then Connor Degreeff and Aidan Dierks both had two-run singles in the inning, totaling up to nine runs and putting TMB in an insurmountable hole leading 13-4 heading into the bottom half.

Travis Willhite was hit by a pitch and Ashton Squires walked to start the inning before David Schuh reached on an error with one out to score Willhite. Yet, MCC got consecutive outs to end the scoring threat and with it, the Panthers’ season.

The Panthers finish their season with an 11-13 record.

“Not the result we wanted but this postseason we have been through everything possible,” TMB head coach James Fultz said. “This was a fun group. There are a lot of competitors on this team. It makes my job a lot easier when you have nine to twelve guys locked in all the time, communicating. It turned around for us at the end of the season heading into the postseason. That’s all you can ask as a coach. This junior group has been playing baseball together for a long time. We got a taste of postseason success and now that should fuel us for next season as we want to go further.

“I’m happy for the two seniors [Willhite and Hauger] on this team that got to enjoy this. They were great leaders all year long. They were doing tons of stuff to help us get to this point. Hopefully, this success keeps the guys coming back hungry. I told the team I’m proud of them. TMB baseball hasn’t had much success in the past 10 years. Winning three games in the playoffs is a big deal. When you’re one of the last four teams in the section playing, it means you’re a good baseball team and setting the standard of getting here. Anybody can beat anybody when the playoffs start. Just have to keep getting better.”

Derek Kluis finished the game with five hits, including his home run and three RBIs, but remained humble after the win.

“They’re a good team, definitely one of the best teams we’ve played. I threw against them last Saturday and they got the best of me so it was good to exact some revenge on them,” Kluis said. “They’re a good team and will be a good team for years to come. I think everybody is excited to play RTR because it has been kind of a rivalry with them. They put us away in basketball this year, baseball last year and it is the same kids we’ve been playing against since third or fourth grade. Just exciting to get to play them and try to beat them. We do have to sharpen up on defense.”


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