‘One play, one way or the other’

Sheik comes up clutch in Vikings’ walk-off win over Wabasso

Photo by Jake McNeill Minneota pitcher Peyton Sheik (center) is charged by teammates Carson Javers (right) and Brody Larson after he drove the two in with a walk-off single in the Vikings’ 5-4 win over Wabasso at K.P. Kompelien Field on Friday night.

MINNEOTA — Every at-bat mattered for the Minneota baseball team when it hosted the Wabasso Rabbits on Friday night. The game came down to the final inning but a two-run single from Peyton Sheik gave the Vikings a 5-4 walk-off win in their penultimate home game of the season.

“I think we’ve been in that situation five or six times. It seems like every game we’re in a one-run game, so our guys just know that one play, one way or the other, is going to make the difference,” Minneota head coach Keven Larson said. “That’s kind of our mentality right now going into next week for the section tournament… I knew going into the game though that when you look at Wabasso’s record, which isn’t great, but they play in a really good conference and they’re always fundamentally sound. And I know their starting pitcher [Joe Liebl] is solid, so we’ve got to play well and we played okay for most of the game.”

Minneota trailed 4-3 entering the final frame when the tide shifted. Carson Javers began the rally with a ground-rule double. The shot to the right-field fence was originally ruled a home run but was overturned after some discussion.

From there, Brody Larson got a base hit to put two runners. There were two outs against the Vikings when Sheik stepped up to bat.

“We had our leadoff batter [Javers], he’s lead off for a reason and he stepped up and made a nice hit… Brody steps up, has a great at-bat, good eyes and then you’ve got runners in scoring position and just kind of have to trust and step up,” Sheik said. 

Sheik came up clutch with a shot just through the gap into left field. Both runners scored before charging to Sheik at first base to celebrate the win. Even as Larson and Javers jumped on him celebrating, he remained cool, calm and collected. 

“Just be humble. That’s what I’m trained to do. My parents have always taught that to me,” Sheik said. “That’s what my coaches got me there for. I’m a senior, I’ve got to step up. Somebody’s got to be a leader. We’ve got three seniors on this team and they’re all great leaders.”

The Rabbits have been right in position to win a lot of their games but haven’t been able to pull it out. While they remain a group that’s played better than their record suggests, they’ll look to finish off these close games as they prepare for the postseason.

“Close games in the playoffs are the difference between a good team and a not-so-good team,” Wabasso head coach Chad Olson said. “It’s that simple. We’re going to have to win these types of games in the playoffs. We’re not going to beat anybody 14-2 or something, we’ve got to find ways to win these games instead of doing what we did. It’s not that we blew it, it’s just we didn’t find a way to win it.”

Sheik also gave the Vikings a quality start on the mound after pitching the first six innings of the game. He struck out five batters in the start while allowing 11 hits, two walks and four earned runs. After he left with a no-decision, Ryan Meagher pitched a scoreless final inning to earn the win.

For the Rabbits, Joe Liebl also put together a quality performance on the mound. He pitched the game’s first six innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits and no walks. He also struck out six batters. After Zach Skoblik relieved him to start the seventh inning, Liebl returned to the game with two runners on and two outs. Still, he was not able to get the out and both of his inherited runners scored.

“We had gotten into a jam and we just needed one out,” Olson said of the substitution on the mound. “He was at 97 pitches and he had just thrown, he wasn’t sitting there for half an hour. And he’s the guy we want in that moment when the game’s on the line and he almost got it done.”

Wabasso got its first quality scoring opportunity in the top of the first inning. Noah Anderson and Calvin Hanna got on base with a walk and a bunt and Liebl hit an RBI single to push the first run across the plate for the Rabbits. From there, Jayden Remiger laid down another bunt to load the bases with no outs. Yet, Minneota got a pop out to their catcher, a force at the plate and a strikeout to end the inning without further damage.

With the Vikings out of school for the summer, schedules change. Coach Larson said that he felt Sheik’s first-inning struggles before getting out of the inning could be attributed to getting out of his routine after working during the day and the team’s senior awards before the game throwing off their warmup timing. Still, Sheik stayed mentally ready to go and pitched a quality outing.

“We have total confidence in him and he’s pitched that way all year long,” coach Larson said. “Lots of strikes. He wants to be the guy, which is what you need to do as a senior. Plus at the plate tonight, he’s been one of our most consistent bats the last couple of weeks. He just seems like he’s seeing the ball well and hitting the ball well when he needs to.”

In the top of the third, Jaxson Wagner turned on the burners to turn a deep hit into a triple with two outs. While the speed got him to third, he showed he still wasn’t tired from the sprint as he ran home on a passed ball and barely beat a throw to give Wabasso a 2-0 lead.

Minneota responded in the bottom of the third when Destin Fier doubled and scored on a Peyton double with two outs. The RBI double was the second of Sheik’s game-high four hits.

Wabasso re-extended its lead in the fifth inning. Anderson hit a leadoff double before the Vikings retired consecutive batters. Yet, Jayden Remiger came up with a clutch single to drive in Anderson and consecutive singles from Jaxson Wagner and Kaysen Harms drove in Remiger for a 4-1 Wabasso lead.

Minneota put themselves in a position to win for the last inning with a sixth-inning rally. Larson and Sheik hit back-to-back singles and Ryan Dalager followed up with a two-run double to cut Wabasso’s lead down to 4-3.

Liebl and Anderson each reached base twice for Wabasso with two hits and a walk while Wagner also had a pair of hits for the Rabbits.

Minneota improves to 8-6 with the win while Wabasso falls to 4-15. The Vikings will go on the road to face Dawson-Boyd on Monday at 4:30 p.m. before wrapping up their season on Tuesday at home against Lac qui Parle Valley at the same time. 

“The South is going to be tough as far as the section is concerned, all the way [seeds] one through eight,” coach Larson said. “I don’t think there’s anybody you can overlook at all, so it’ll be fun. It will be tough, but it’ll be fun.”

Wabasso will conclude the regular season at Edgerton on Tuesday.

“I think the biggest thing — and it’s been this way all year for us — is scoring runs,” Olson said. “We just aren’t an offensive team, so if we can find a way to score more runs- we have the bases loaded, nobody out in that first inning, walked away with one run. You’re not going to win games if you do that consistently. More offense and then we’ll start winning games like that.”


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