Lake Mills falls short

Published 11:33 pm Monday, June 21, 2010

After six monotonous innings, Lake Mills sent seven batters to the plate, down two runs in the final frame, but couldn’t push across the game-tying run from second base and fell 4-2 to Mason City Newman, Iowa’s top prep team.

To lead off the seventh, Royce Byrnes hit only the Bulldogs’ (14-3) second hit off the game, a single to center field, and moved to second base on a Knights’ (16-1) error.

After Drey LyBarger flew out to right field, Chris Throne reached first on an error and both LyBarger and Throne advanced one base on a wild pitch with the tying run, Levi Dahle at the plate.

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Dahle scored Byrnes on a ground out to first base and Alex Grunhovd walked off Knights’ starting pitcher Blake Louscher. In the next at bat, Bryan Hengesteg drew a 2-0 count againt Louscher, who was pulled mid-at bat for reliever Hunter King, and walked, loading the bases with two outs for Josh Zabel.

Zabel drew a 2-0 count early, and fought the count full, fouling off pitches. He popped out to the catcher, though, in foul territory to end the Bulldogs’ rally.

“Obviously you want to be ahead or tied going into your last at bat,” Lake Mills head coach Jason Blaser said. “But anytime you can get the winning run on base you got to be happy with the way the kids fought back.”

The Bulldogs had only one hit through six innings but had loaded the bases four times and drawn eight walks heading into the seventh.

“We just didn’t get a hit,” Blaser said. “We had the opportunity through walks and errors, but just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed to.”

Lake Mills scored their only other run in the second inning when Byrnes walked with the bases loaded.

That inning, the Bulldogs had the bases loaded four times but struck out twice and flew out to right field.

Lake Mills may have left runs on the field when they advanced runners to second and third on Knights’ passed ball.

The ball hit the home plate umpire who reacted by calling the play dead and making Byrnes and LyBarger return to first and second, keeping a double play situation alive.

Throne then hit into a double play a few pitches later and Dahle grounded out the end the inning. The umpire later admitted he was wrong calling the play dead.

After running into trouble in the first three innings, starting pitcher Throne cruised through the final four, surrendering no runs on four hits and striking out five.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the way Chris pitched,” Blaser said, of the righty who faced a team with a .302 batting average. “He really hit his spots and had to adjust to a tight strike zone.”

The loss keeps Lake Mills in second place in the North Iowa Conference behind Newman, who remain undefeated in league play.

The team plays again tonight at home against Northwood-Kensett at 7:30 p.m.