Johnathan Fleek, a junior from Albert Lea, scored the first run of the game in a 3-2 loss Monday to Rochester John Marshall at Bell Field in Faribault. The game was the first round of the consolation bracket of the Section 1AAA tournament. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune
Johnathan Fleek, a junior from Albert Lea, scored the first run of the game in a 3-2 loss Monday to Rochester John Marshall at Bell Field in Faribault. The game was the first round of the consolation bracket of the Section 1AAA tournament. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Gallery: A.L. keeps fans on edge of their seats

Published 3:08pm Monday, May 27, 2013

Tigers’ season is full of thrills with 11 games decided by 1 run

The 2013 Albert Lea baseball team finished with a 9-12 overall record and kept its fans on the edge of their seats throughout the season.

Eleven of the Tigers’ games were decided by one run. Of those one-run games, the Tigers won four and lost seven.

“It’s been a fun year with lots of ups and downs,” Albert Lea senior co-captain Makael Lunning said. “It’s definitely been memorable.”

The highs included starting the season on a 6-2 run. As of May 8, the Tigers controlled first place in the Big Nine Conference standings. Other high points were sweeping the regular-season series with Austin, including a 2-1 win in the regular-season finale, as well as shutting out Hastings 6-0 in the first round of the Section 1AAA tournament.

The lows included a mid-season six-game skid.

“They’ve battled every game, and we’ve lost some tough ones,” Albert Lea’s Joe Sczublewski said in his 24th season as head coach. “It’s some good competition we’re playing against.”

Albert Lea will have to replace a group of seven contributing seniors.

“They’re a great bunch of guys, and it was fun playing with them,” senior co-captain Dylan See-Rockers said. “But, I wish it wouldn’t have ended this way.”

The Tigers were eliminated from the section tournament, despite a gritty performance in rainy conditions Monday at Bell Field in Faribault against Rochester John Marshall.

After an hour rain delay before the opening pitch, the Rockets prevailed 3-2 to stay alive in the postseason.

Albert Lea lit up the scoreboard right off the bat in the top of the first inning when Johnathan Fleek scored on a double by Zach Bordewick.

After Rochester John Marshall scored two runs in the bottom of the first, the bases were loaded with a full count, and a runner scored on a balk. The Rockets led 3-1. However, Tigers’ pitcher Dylan See-Rockers rebounded by stranding the rest of the runners in the inning and not allowing another run for the final six innings.

See-Rockers hit his stride in the second with an inning-ending strike out.

In the top of the fourth, Albert Lea shaved its deficit in half. Lunning led off with a base hit to shallow center field, and Wyatt Paulsen was walked and advanced Lunning to second. Lunning scored on a hit by Burkard. Paulsen was forced out at second, but the Tigers were within one run with only one out.

However, Rochester John Marshall pitcher Zach Schwieters buckled down and didn’t allow any more runs.

In the bottom of the fifth, See-Rockers found himself in a jam with runners on second and third with two outs. He came through with another inning-ending strike-out.

The Tigers threatened with runners in scoring position in the top of the sixth, but they were unable to knock in any runs.

In the bottom of the sixth, Lunning made an acrobatic catch in deep center field in stride.

“That was just a fantastic catch out there to keep the game within one run,” Sczublewski said.

Lunning kept playing hard in the top of the seventh. He beat out the throw of a would-be double play to prolong the game with two outs. To end the game, he was picked off attempting to steal second.

The Tigers’ season was sandwiched between games with Rochester John Marshall. In Albert Lea’s first complete game of the season, it beat the Rockets 4-2. Rochester John Marshall won the mid-season and section games.