Cards produce best finish in state play

Luverne’s bid to win its first title at the Minnesota State Class AA Baseball Tournament came up one win short in St. Cloud late last week.
Making its sixth appearance at a state classic overall and first under the three-class tournament format implemented for the 2000 season, Luverne turned in an outstanding showing by going 2-1 to place second.
Playing its first state tournament game on Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud on Thursday afternoon, the Cardinals got off to a great start by topping Section 5AA champion Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
Luverne played Blue Earth Area in the semifinals Thursday night, and the Cards opened a 5-0 lead before the game was postponed due to rain after one-half inning of play. The game picked up where it left off Friday morning, with Luverne prevailing 9-5 over the Section 2AA champs.
The Cardinals met St. Cloud Cathedral in the championship tilt Friday night. In a game that included a 90-minute rain delay, the Crusaders nipped LHS 6-4 to deny the Cardinals a state championship.
Luverne ended the season with a 17-9 record and a second-place finish at the state tournament, an effort that never has been matched in school history.
SCC 6, Luverne 4
The Cardinals came up two runs short of winning their first state baseball championship during Friday’s championship game in St. Cloud.
Facing a talented Crusaders team, Mother Nature and a crowd that favored the local team by at least a 10-to-1 ratio, the Cardinals simply ran into too many obstacles to overcome.
LHS expected to be shorthanded as far as fan support goes, but it was the weather that hurt them even more.
Trailing 2-1 with SCC batting in the top half of the fifth inning, the skies opened up, emitting a relentless rain that forced the game to be postpones for 1:30.
When play resumed, the Crusaders seemed to benefit from the layoff as they scored two runs in the fifth and sixth innings to gain a 6-1 advantage. Luverne battled back to score three runs in the bottom of the seventh, but a strikeout with runners on first and third ended the possibility of an LHS rally.
Although Luverne coach Mike Wenninger has respect for SCC, he’s not so sure how the game would have turned out if there had been no rain delay.
“Really, it was like having to play two different games. We’re a team that seems to score runs in spurts, and we had just scored our first run before the rain delay. Give us a little more time, and we might have scored a couple of more runs. Give us a seven-inning game against them without any interruptions, they still might win it, but I think it would have been a different type of game,” he said.
All in all, it was an entertaining title game. Luverne never sported a lead in the contest, but it never was a big hit or two away from winning the battle, either.
The teams battled to a scoreless draw until the top of the third inning, when the Crusaders put together four hits (three of the infield variety) off Luverne pitcher Isaac Schmidt to gain a 2-0 lead.
Tony Dingmann singled home one run and another scored on Brian Mathiason’s fielder’s choice.
Luverne answered the challenge in the bottom of the third, cutting SCC’s lead in half at 2-1.
Jon Jarchow led the frame off with a double. After moving to third on James Fisher’s sacrifice bunt, Jarchow scored when SSC fielded a chopper by Iveland and tried to throw Jarchow out at the plate. Contact was made between Jarchow and the SCC catcher, jarring the ball loose from the Crusader.
The score still was 2-1 in the top of the fifth, when SSC’s Brett Hemmelgarn produced a lead-off single before rain forced the umpires to put the game on hold.
When play resumed 90 minutes later, Schmidt loaded the bases by walking one batter and hitting another. A ground out scored SSC’s third run moments later, and another run scored on a fielder’s choice to make it a 4-1 difference as the inning progressed.
SSC increased its lead to 6-1 in the top of the sixth.
After Schmidt fanned the first batter of the frame, he issued a pair of walks before being lifted for Mark Huiskes. Huiskes hit a batter to load the bases before Dingmann delivered a two-run single.
Luverne made things interesting by scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh before the rally ended with runners on first and third.
Ben Winkels reached base on an error to start the inning before giving way to courtesy runner E.J. Bouwman. Bouwman moved to second when Brad Walgrave singled before scoring the first run of the rally when a throwing error by SCC’s catcher allowed him to race home from second base.
Jarchow then lifted what looked to be a harmless fly ball that was gloved and dropped by SCC’s left fielder for an error. Jarchow gained first base on the play, but Walgrave held up at second base, from where he scored on Fisher’s RBI double.
Jarchow, who went to third on the double, scored on Iveland’s sacrifice fly to center field, and fisher advanced to third base on the play. Jeremy Fick then drew a two-out walk before the final out of the game was recorded by Hemmelgarn. He replaced Hollenhorst after six and two-thirds innings of work on the hill.
Schmidt took the loss for Luverne, yielding six runs in five and one-third innings. He hit one batter, walked three, fanned four and yielded two hits in one and two-thirds innings of relief. 
Luverne 9, BEA 3
A battering offensive performance carried the Cardinals to a six-run victory during a semifinals game against the Buccaneers that began Thursday night and ended Friday morning.
Luverne, which rocked BEA pitching for 15 hits in the game, scored five runs in the top half of the first inning and coasted to a six-run victory over the Bucs.
The game was postponed when BEA was batting in the bottom half of the first Thursday night, but the Cards came back Friday morning to outscore the Bucs 4-3 and win handily.
“We got to sleep on a 5-0 lead Thursday night,” Wenninger said. “I was proud of our kids because this (the postponement) could have been a bad thing, but they handled it well. We came out and got 15 hits in the game, which was our second highest total of the season. We had seven hits in the first inning alone, when even the outs we hit into were hard. You can’t ask for more than that.” 
Luverne rocked Buc starting pitcher Lee Hodges early and often in the top of the first.
Fick and Tony Sandbulte singled to start the game before Huiskes provided a two-run double. Winkels singled Huiskes double. Winkels singled Huiskes home, but Bouwman, who was running fro Winkels, was forced out at second base when Walgrave reached first on a fielder’s choice.
Tony Kopp ran for Walgrave, moving to third base when Tom Frey was hit by a pitch and Jarchow singled to load the bases. Fisher singled home Kopp and Iveland singled home Frey to end the five-run rally.
Play resumed at 10 a.m. Friday morning, with BEA lead-off hitter T.J. Stallman facing a 2-0 count. Stallman hit his first of two solo homers off Walgrave, Luverne’s starting pitcher, to make it a 5-1 game.
Luverne scored twice in the top of the third to make it a 7-1 game before Stallman hit his second solo home in the bottom of the third to make it a 7-2 difference.
Frey drew a walk and Fisher singled to get things rolling in the third, but Fisher was forced out at second when Iveland reached first on a fielder’s choice. After Iveland stole second, both he and Frey scored on Fick’s two-out single.
Luverne plated single runs in the first and sixth innings to put the game away while increasing the lead to 9-2.
Jarchow led the fifth frame off with a solo homer. Winkels reached base on a fielder’s choice before being lifted to pinch runner Bouwman with one out in the sixth. Bouwman went to third on Frey’s single before scoring when a throwing error was charged to the catcher while he tried to gun down a stealing Frey at second base.
BEA’s T.J. Schmidtke slapped a two-out single to cap the scoring in the bottom of the sixth.
Walgrave tossed the first three innings before giving way to Fick who picked up the win by tossing one-run ball for four frames.
Fick allowed one hit and four walks while striking out four batters. Walgrave gave up two earned runs and six hits in the first three innings.
Luverne 6, A-C-GC 3
The Cardinals erased a pair of deficits while coming from behind to post their first state tournament win since 1995 Thursday.
A-C-GC sported a 2-1 lead after four innings of play and a 3-2 edge after the fifth, but Luverne plated five runs in its final three trips to the plate to win by three.
“Scoring runs in spurts like we did at the end of this game is something this team did all year,” Wenninger said. “It’s a contagious type of thing. One guy starts it, and others don’t want to be left behind.”
Luverne’s rally started in the top of the fifth inning, when it erased a 2-1 deficit by knotting the sore at two.
Iveland singled, stole second and scored on Fick’s single.
A-C-GC moved in front 3-2 when Justin Downes drew a bases-loaded walk from Luverne pitcher Jarchow in the bottom of the fifth, but the Cards scored two runs in the sixth and seventh innings to prevail by three runs. 
Walgrave tripled to start the sixth inning before tying the game when Frey singled. Frey was thrown out at third base when Jarchow reached base on a fielder’s choice as the inning progressed. Kyle Crable, who was running for Jarchow, scored on Iveland’s two–out double to vie the Cards a 4-3 edge.
A throwing error by A-C-GC’s shortstop allowed Sandbulte to reach second base to start the seventh inning. Huiskes singled home Sandbulte and moved to second when the Falcons made a throw to the plate in an attempt to gun down Sandbulte. Huiskes went to third when Winkles grounded out and scored on a single by Walgrave.
Luverne opened the scoring by plating a run in the top of the first before the Falcons moved in front 2-1 on Jesses Hutchinson’s two-run double in the bottom of the third.
Sandbulte and Huiskes singled with one out in the first for LHS Winkels then hit a ground ball that forced Huiskes out at second base, but the relay throw to first base in an attempt to get Winkels was wild, allowing Sandbulte to score the initial run.
Although Jarchow was plagued by five walks, he lasted all seven innings on the hill. He limited A-C-GC to four hits and three runs (two earned) while fanning 13 batters.
“Jon did a good job of keeping them in check. He got hurt by walks a couple of times, but he did have 13 strikeouts. The nice thing about it was he was throwing harder at the end of the game than he was at the beginning of the game,” Wenninger said.
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