Gallery: Tigers take down Titans in extra innings
Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, May 27, 2014
MONTGOMERY — Success with small ball secured a spot in the subsection finals for the Albert Lea baseball team.
The Tigers took their first lead in the top of the eighth inning on a suicide squeeze, and they hung on in the bottom half with the bases loaded to beat Tri-City United 3-2 Tuesday in the Subsection 2AA South semifinals.
The eighth-inning squeeze play was set up by more small ball. Albert Lea’s Johnathan Fleek led off with a base on balls. He stole second on a fake bunt by Jake Thompson and advanced to third when Thompson executed a bunt.
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“If you can save the bunt until you have a runner on second, then you’re in really good shape,” said Albert Lea coach Joe Sczublewski. “It gives you a lot of options.”
With one out, it was Wyatt Paulsen’s turn in the order. His bunt flew over the Tri-City United third baseman’s glove while Fleek slid over home.
“I actually should’ve gotten it down better, but I’m just glad that it worked out,” Paulsen said. “I’d never squeeze bunted before.”
Parker Mullenbach followed with Albert Lea’s second hit of the inning. The Tigers had four hits in the game.
“We had trouble hitting the ball all day,” Sczublewski said. “Their lefty had us baffled. It was tough to see the ball coming out of his hand.”
Albert Lea held Tri-City United scoreless after the first inning, but the Titans threatened in the bottom of the eighth.
With one out and runners on first and second, Sczublewski decided to relieve starting pitcher Chris Enderson, who pitched more than a complete game. Fleek took the mound.
“He (Enderson) threw a lot of pitches,” Sczublewski said. “So we brought Johnathan in, and he came in with a lot of energy. It was fun to see that.”
Fleek struck out the first batter he faced, but he loaded the bases by hitting the Titans’ next batter. Parker Mullenbach preserved the win by tracking down a pop-up in foul territory near first base.
In the bottom of the first, Tri-City United built a 2-0 lead.
“It could’ve snowballed on us after the first inning,” Sczublewski said. “We used a few double plays to snuff out their rallies.”
The Tigers got out of the bottom of the second inning when Enderson fielded a bouncing grounder. He slung the ball to Fleek at second who turned the double play. In the bottom of the third, it was E.J. Thomas who turned the double play.
Albert Lea tied the game 2-2 in the top of the fourth. With two outs, a full count and the bases loaded, Kole Smith kept the bat on his shoulder and was walked. Albert Lea’s next batter, Enderson, was walked to score another run.
In 7 1 /3 innings of pitching, Enderson retired two batters and gave up three hits, eight walks and an earned run.
“He was able to get his curveball going for strikes after the early part of the game,” Sczublewski said.
Enderson normally plays catcher, but when he’s called on to pitch, Parker Boyum stands behind the plate.
“It’s completely different, but you’ve just got to be ready to go wherever (they need you),” Enderson said. “I had a rough first inning, but then got in my groove again.”
No. 3-seed Albert Lea (7-13 overall, 3-13 Big Nine Conference) will host No. 5-seed Faribault Academies (8-10 overall, 6-2 Gopher Conference) at 5 p.m. Thursday. The Cardinals have players from Bethlehem Academy, the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, Shattuck-St. Mary’s and Discovery public school. While the Tigers beat No. 2-seed Tri-City United, the Cardinals took down No. 1-seed St. Peter 7-5 on Tuesday.
Albert Lea and Faribault Academies have one common opponent: NRHEG. The Cardinals defeated the Panthers 11-5 on May 13, and the Tigers defeated the Panthers 17-0 on May 21.
In the Subsection 2AA North bracket, Holy Family Catholic knocked off No. 1-seed Belle Plaine 5-4 in the semifinals, and No. 2-seed Glencoe-Silver Lake took down No. 3-seed Watertown- Mayer 8-3.
In the first round of the consolation bracket, Watertown-Mayer will play at Belle Plaine at 5 p.m. Thursday, and Tri-City United will play at St. Peter at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Statistics are in the Scoreboard: May 27 post.