Tigers advance past Eagles
Published 7:32 pm Friday, May 22, 2015
Strong defense in the top of the seventh inning spurred the Albert Lea baseball team to its first postseason win of the year.
A throw to second base by Tigers catcher Parker Boyum picked off a Maple River baserunner to slow the Eagles’ rally, and pitcher Chris Enderson capped Albert Lea’s 6-4 win with a strikeout Friday in the Subsection 2AA South quarterfinals at Hayek Field.
Instead of having the tying run in scoring position with one out, the pick play gave Maple River two outs with one runner on base.
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“That was a huge play,” said Albert Lea coach Joe Sczublewski. “It was probably the biggest defensive play of the game, and that strikeout couldn’t have come at a better time, either.”
Enderson ended the first, third and seventh innings with three of his eight strikeouts. He gave up five hits, two earned runs and six walks.
“Our defense helped me a lot today, and we just fought through it at the end,” said Enderson.
The Tigers led 1-0 in the first with a bases-loaded walk but stranded eight baserunners through the first three innings.
After Albert Lea took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI single by Parker Mullenbach, Mason Hammer extended the Tigers’ advantage with a two-RBI single.
“On that play, he finally broke the ice,” Sczublewski said. “We just couldn’t afford to load the bases and not get anything again.”
Hammer led Albert Lea at the plate by going 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a stolen base.
“We’ve been tweaking some stuff in the cage at practice, and it came together today,” he said.
Sczublewski said he’s been working with Hammer to shorten his swing and drive the ball.
Jake Thompson, E.J. Thomas, Wyatt Paulsen and Kole Smith had one hit each.
The Tigers’ took their largest lead, 5-1, later in the fourth when Smith scored on one of the Eagles’ five errors. Albert Lea had two errors.
In the bottom of the sixth, Mullenbach drilled the ball to right field, but Maple River’s Chandler See made a full-extension diving catch.
“Maple River was playing some very inspired baseball,” Sczublewski said. “Even though they had some errors in the field, they made some unbelievable plays.”
Alex Bledsoe scored Albert Lea’s last run of the game on a high-risk play later in the sixth.
“He was instructed to come even though the infield was up, and he was fortunate enough to knock the ball out (of the catcher’s glove),” Sczublewski said. “A lot of things can happen when you run a contact play.”
The game was a rematch of a regular-season matchup the Tigers won 14-6 two days prior at Hayek Field.
No. 8-seed Maple River (6-15, 3-8 Gopher) was eliminated, but after the first round, the playoffs become double elimination with a consolation bracket.
Next, No. 1-seed Albert Lea (11-10, 4-7 Big Nine) will host No. 4-seed Tri-City United (10-10, 5-9 Minnesota River) in the subsection semifinals at Hayek Field.
Tri-City United edged No. 5-seed St. Peter (6-15, 4-9 Big South) 6-5 Friday in nine innings.
“We’ll need to have a little better luck and hit the ball a little better with people in scoring position,” Sczublewski said. “It won’t be anything easy.”