Makael Lunning of the Albert Lea Legion Post 56 baseball team throws a pitch Tuesday against Winona in the first round of the District 1 tournament at Maxwell-Loughrey Field on the campus of Winona State University. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune
Makael Lunning of the Albert Lea Legion Post 56 baseball team throws a pitch Tuesday against Winona in the first round of the District 1 tournament at Maxwell-Loughrey Field on the campus of Winona State University. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Gallery: Albert Lea Legion falls in district tourney at Winona

Published 11:00pm Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WINONA — A five-run explosion in the fourth inning and a 9-7 hitting advantage wasn’t enough to carry the Albert Lea Legion Post 56 baseball team to the second round of the District 1 tournament.

“We didn’t make the simple, easy plays,” said Albert Lea coach Jay Enderson. “It just comes down to execution.”

Albert Lea fell to the consolation bracket with a 6-5 loss Tuesday against Winona at Maxwell-Loughrey Field on the campus of Winona State University.

During the regular season, Albert Lea split a doubleheader at Winona on July 2. Post 56 lost the opener 4-1 but rebounded with a nine-inning 10-6 victory in Game 2.

In the postseason rematch, Albert Lea scored all of its runs in one inning and missed opportunities to tie the game with runners in scoring position in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Winona took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. After a scoreless third, Albert Lea came alive with five runs in the fourth.

A grounder by E.J. Thomas scored Parker Boyum to tie the game, and a fly-out to deep right field by Thompson put runners on the corners. With two outs and Parker Mullenbach at the plate, Thomas took a large lead at first base. He beat the throw to second, while Kole Smith simultaneously stole home to give Albert Lea its first lead of the game, 2-1. Mullenbach proceeded to crush an RBI double, and Makael Lunning hit a two-RBI double with the bases loaded to extend Albert Lea’s lead to 5-1.

Winona responded with one run in the bottom of the fourth and four in the fifth, including a two-run homer by Chris Hansen, to take a 6-5 lead.

Lunning took the mound in relief of Albert Lea starter Johnathan Fleek after the two-run shot. However, Enderson said he made the change because of rule changes for the postseason. During the regular season, games last seven innings. In the postseason, they’re nine.

“He hit his limit,” Enderson said. “It had nothing to do with that home run.”

With a one-run deficit, Post 56 stranded Lunning at third. The next inning, Albert Lea had a golden opportunity to score with a lead-off triple by Kole Smith that bounced under the glove of Winona’s center fielder. However, the next three Albert Lea batters struck out.

The ninth inning began with a single by Fleek to right field. After he advanced to second on a bunt by Wyatt Paulsen, Lunning was intentionally walked.

“I saw they had a base open, so it crossed my mind,” Lunning said. “But I was up there ready to hit.”

However, both runners were stranded.

Lunning held Winona scoreless in the last 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four batters and allowed two hits and two walks.

“He did a really nice job in relief,” said Enderson. “He shut them down.”

To get to the district championship game, Albert Lea needs to battle through four games in the consolation bracket.

“We have the team to do it,” Lunning said. “Hopefully, we can win some games now.”

Next, Albert Lea will play Kasson at 10 a.m. Friday at Winona. No. 1-seed Austin beat No. 8-seed Kasson 12-6 in the first round.

Statistics are in the Scoreboard: July 22 post.