Tigers Top Bluejays in Ten, Earn Trip To State
The Springfield Tigers defeated the Essig Bluejays, 4-3, in ten innings to earn a trip to the 2007 Minnesota Class C State Amateur Baseball Tournament. It will be the Tigers first appearance at state since 1998. In 1998, the tournament was held in Hamburg and Chaska. Hamburg, along with Norwood, is hosting this year's tournament. All the fans who attended the series with Essig got quite a treat, as it would be nearly impossible to play three more exciting baseball games.
Brandon Wilhelmi took the mound for the Tigers in this decisive game three. He had a rough first inning when Essig put together four hits and batted eight, to take an early 2-0 lead. After the tough first inning, Brandon kicked it up a notch and allowed just two more hits during his final six and a third innings of work.
The Springfield offense had at least one runner on base during every inning of the ballgame, but they hit into three rally-killing double plays during the first six innings. The Tigers cut the Bluejay lead in half in the bottom of the fourth inning. Colby Pack led off by beating out a high chopper to short. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a ground out by Ryan Sturm. Pack came in to score on a ground out by Bob Fink, making the score, 2-1.
Essig pushed their lead back to two in the top of the seventh. Bluejay draftee, Jeff Shelby, hit a solo homer to left to start the inning, giving Essig a 3-1 lead. The Tiger defense committed two straight errors to start the top of the eighth. Wilhelmi walked a batter to load the bases. Wilhelmi and Pack changed places and Pack induced a huge, inning-ending, 6-4-3, double play to get the Tigers out of the jam.
Kyle Kraska started the Springfield half of the eighth by reaching on a wild pitch on strike three. Matt Baier took his place on the bases when he reached on a fielder's choice. Pack flew out to right for the second out of the inning. Ryan Sturm reached on an error, bringing up Fink. With two-on and two-out, Fink laced a single, driving in Baier. The Tigers got the bases loaded on another Essig error, but were unable to tie the game.
The Tigers trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. Chris Sturm reached on an Essig error to start things. Wilhelmi moved him over with the Tigers' only successful sacrifice bunt of the night. Kraska came to the plate and came through with yet another key hit, driving in pinch runner Brent Haseleu, tying the game at three. Springfield hit into their fourth double play sending the game into extra innings.
Pack gave up a two-out walk in the top of the tenth before getting the final out on a nice grab by right fielder Jim Eckstein. Ryan Sturm worked a one-out walk to start things in the bottom of the tenth. Fink took his place, reaching on a fielder's choice. With two outs and Fink at first, Matt Tews won it when he ripped a double past the Essig leftfielder, driving in Fink, all the way from first base.
It was a great series with late inning clutch hits, great defensive plays, and loads of excitement for both teams. The Tigers hope to carry that excitement and clutch play into the state tournament. They will face Searles Sunday at 2:00pm in Springfield to determine the champion and runner-up of Region 2C. The Tigers start state tournament play on Sunday, August 19. Come on down to Riverside Park and cheer on the Tigers in their final game of the season at home!
|R. Sturm, 1B||4||0||0||0||1||1|
|C. Sturm, LF||4||0||1||0||0||1|
|Pack (W, 2-0)||2 2/3||0||0||0||2||3|