Tigers come so close, but fall

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Albert Lea had a very hard task in Red Wing Tuesday.

After coming back in the seventh inning to beat Red Wing on Monday, the Tigers had to beat No. 1 Northfield twice in order to advance to the state tournament.

This was the third year in a row in which the Tigers were in this position.

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Third time’s the charm right?

In Game 1, yes. But the all-important Game 2 is where the Tigers ran out of gas on their journey to the Twin Cities.

The Tigers won Game 1, 9-5, but fell in Game 2, 9-0, and their season came to an end.

“We battled extremely hard, but ran out of energy in Game 2,” said Tigers coach Joe Sczublewski. “I think the number of games we played in the short number of days finally caught up to our pitching staff.”


Game 1

Jake Kilby got the ball for the Tigers in Game 1, and got off to a shaky start.

He allowed at least one run in each of the first three innings, giving up five in total.

However, Albert Lea’s offense woke up after the first inning and started to hit around Raiders pitcher Cameron Gray.

The Tigers got one run in the second inning after Sam Moyer got a two-out double. Jacob Bordewick beat out an infield throw that scooted away from Raiders first baseman Chris Antoine that allowed Moyer to score.

In the third inning, the Tigers really found their stride.

Parker Mullenbach and Ben Witham had back-to-back RBI hits. With Gray on the ropes and fighting to find his command, Alex Bledsoe knocked him around for a hit, then Kilby helped his own cause with an RBI single.

Albert Lea’s Ben Witham beats out a throw in the second inning during Game 1 against Northfield Tuesday. Witham finished the game 2-4 with two RBIs and two stolen bases.

Albert Lea’s Ben Witham beats out a throw in the second inning during Game 1 against Northfield Tuesday. Witham finished the game 2-4 with two RBIs and two stolen bases.

At the end of the inning, the Tigers had scored four runs on five hits, and had taken a 5-3 lead.

The Raiders answered with two runs in the bottom of the third thanks to two errors by the Tigers, but Kilby was able to limit the damage.

The Tigers went back on offense, and picked up right where they left off in the third inning.

Jake Thompson and Mullenbach reached base, then Witham came through with an RBI. Another run scored on fielder’s choice. Later, Witham scored on a delayed steal of home. Bordewick capped off the inning with an RBI single.

That would be all the scoring the Tigers would need, as Kilby buckled down and battled through the remaining four innings for the complete-game win.


Game 2

After a short break and the field being tended to, the Tigers and Raiders were back at it.

Ross Beumer got the ball for the Raiders and Taylor Heavner countered for the Tigers.

Beumer getting the ball for the Raiders spelt trouble for the Tigers, as he was on his game.

He had his fastball and curveball working, and he shut down the Tigers’ bats.

“He did a great job,” Sczublewski said. “He mixed up his pitches and hit his spots all night. He made it extremely difficult for us.”

Heavner retired the Raiders without trouble in the first inning, but found himself in danger in the second inning.

Back-to-back hits had the Raiders in business, and they pushed across one run on a groundout, then another came on a wild pitch.

The Raiders added another run in the third, four in the fifth, and one each in the fifth and sixth inning.

The loss ends a season that turned around at the end of April.

A four-game winning streak turned into wins in nine of 11 games, and that turned into five consecutive wins after losing their opening playoff game to Austin.

Albert Lea finished the season with a record of 17-10.

“We were led by our seniors,” Sczublewski said. “This was a total team effort. But they will be sorely missed.”