Gallery: Albert Lea baseball team’s postseason run ends

Published 9:01 pm Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tristin Muilenburg of Albert Lea throws a pitch Thursday in the Section 2AA championship game against Glencoe-Silver Lake at Belle Plaine. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Tristin Muilenburg of Albert Lea throws a pitch Thursday in the Section 2AA championship game against Glencoe-Silver Lake at Belle Plaine. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

BELLE PLAINE — A trip to the state tournament hung in the balance, but the Albert Lea baseball team’s postseason run ended on Thursday.

Glencoe-Silver Lake scored all of its runs with two outs in the bottom of the third inning and fended off Albert Lea’s seventh-inning rally to defeat the Tigers 4-2 in the Section 2AA championship game.

In the top of the seventh, Albert Lea showed the same resiliency its had throughout the postseason.

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“We had that don’t quit attitude,” said Albert Lea coach Joe Sczublewski. “We made a lot of good plays defensively, and we were just one or two plays short of advancing.”

Had the Tigers won, a rematch would have been played because Glencoe-Silver Lake needed two losses to be eliminated.

In the subsection semifinals, the Tigers clawed back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Tri-City United 3-2. The rally was on an even bigger scale in the subsection finals against Faribault Academies. After the Cardinals jumped out to a 5-0 second-inning lead, Albert Lea rallied to win 8-6.

Against Glencoe-Silver Lake, Wyatt Paulsen fueled the Tigers’ rally with a lead-off single. A double to deep left field by Parker Mullenbach advanced Paulsen to third base, and he scored on a groundout fielder’s choice by Parker Boyum. Mullenbach was able to cut Albert Lea’s deficit to one run when he scored on a single by Kole Smith that died in the infield. However, the Tigers were unable to complete the comeback.

Chris Enderson started on the mound for Albert Lea. After shutting out the Panthers in the first two innings, trouble started in the third with two outs. Glencoe-Silver Lake scored its first run of the game on a balk. The Panthers continued with an RBI double and a two-RBI single.

Tristin Muilenburg took the mound in relief — the same way he did in the comeback victory over Faribault Academies — and only allowed on hit the rest of the game.

“You have to compliment Tristin for coming in with a gutty performance with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball,” Sczublewski said.

Both teams gave up four hits. Johnathan Fleek, Paulsen, Mullenbach and Smith each had one. Sczublewski had high praise for Glencoe-Silver Lake’s hurler, Cole Petersen.

“He’s tough. He’s a big-time pitcher, but we battled him,” Sczublewski said. “The first time through (the order) we had a little trouble adjusting to him, but by the second and third times we were getting the timing down.”

Albert Lea entered the postseason with a 5-13 overall record, having snapped a 10-game losing streak in the regular season finale. However, the Tigers were given the No. 3 seed in an eight-team subsection because of quality wins and strength of schedule.

“Our Big Nine (Conference) schedule really set us up for a nice run in the playoffs,” Sczublewski said.

The Tigers began the season by giving up 38 runs in their first three games, but the squad showed improvement in close losses — five of the losses in 10-loss streak were by three runs or fewer — and the 17-0 win over NRHEG that wrapped up the regular season.

“We’ve come a long way since that 18-1 loss at Owatonna (in the season opener),” said Albert Lea assistant coach Jay Enderson.

Albert Lea had only one senior on the roster: Fleek. He signed with Ellsworth Community College on Jan. 15 and said he will start practice on Aug. 12.

“He will be sorely missed,” Sczublewski said. “He’s one of the most competitive kids we’ve seen here in Albert Lea — just a battler, a hard worker and a true leader. He’s going to have an outstanding college career. He’s been the glue for our team.”

Albert Lea (9-15 overall, 3-13 Big Nine Conference) will have seven seniors on its roster next year.

Statistics are in the Scoreboard: June 6 post.