BY DAVID PEDERSEN
Delano and Rockford both won three baseball games in three days last week to win Sub-section 5AA tournament titles and set up a clash of local teams in Loretto Monday.
The Tigers had the upper hand in a 13-0 five-inning victory to advance to the section title game, 5 p.m. Thursday, June 7 in Loretto with the "if game" (if unbeaten team loses) to follow.
Rockford went up against Breck on Tuesday, after this issue went to press. The winner of that game moves on for a re-match against Delano Thursday. The Tigers defeated both teams once so far.
TIGER PITCHERS DOMINATE
Two-time defending section champion Delano received the No. 1 seed in the east sub-section and opened with a 10-0 romp over No. 8 seed Brooklyn Center last Tuesday.
Cody Mathisen and Adam Schleper combined for a one-hitter. Mathisen, Tyler Wolfe, Toby Hanson and Christian Triplett all had two hits each.
The Tigers next defeated Mound-Westonka 4-2 Wednesday. The MW pitcher had a no-hitter going until the sixth inning when Wolfe drove in the winning run and earned the save on the mound. Zach Muckenhirn started and allowed just three hits in six innings. Delano only had four hits.
The sub-section title was claimed with a 3-0 shutout of Breck Thursday. Coach Dan Paulson said Wolfe was in control the whole game, adding "He put our defense and offense in a great position to win. His teammates picked him up and put three runs on the board. That was all he needed."
Against Rockford Monday, Muchenhirn allowed two hits in the five innings, striking out nine.
Delano’s offense collected 12 hits and 10 walks. Hanson led with three hits, while Halonen had one hit and three walks. Getting two hits each was Adam Kraft, Wolfe and Mathisen.
In the first four playoff games, Delano pitchers have allowed just two earned runs.
ROCKFORD POSTS UPSET WINS
Rockford took a 5-13 record into the playoffs, receiving the No. 7 seed. The Rockets avenged a loss to Litchfield the week prior by pulling out a 5-3 decision in eight innings.
Tyler Barningham pitched all eight innings. John Redepenning and Josh Green drove in runs in the eighth and Brent LaMere provided a 2-run double in the second inning.
In the 5-2 victory over Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted sophomore George Faue pitched all seven innings, allowing just three hits with nine strikeouts. Ben Arens provided a key hit with a 2-run double.
Trailing Annandale with two outs in the top of the seventh, Green lined a 3-run homer to give his team a 5-4 lead. LaMere struck out two of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh to complete all seven innings. He allowed six hits total.
Rocket coach Randy Griffin started Barningham against Delano and was to start Faue against Breck Tuesday. Barningham recently recovered from a dirt bike accident that severely damaged his nose. He had only pitched four innings this season prior to the playoffs.
LATE SEASON SURGE FOR ROCKETS
The strong playoff run by Rockford is not a total surprise to Griffin, the first-year head coach.
"At beginning of spring training we beat Rogers 7-1 in a scrimmage and I totally believed these players have enough talent to compete with anyone in the conference," said Griffin. "When the season started we were not mentally into the game as much as we should be and it didn’t happen on the field."
Griffin said his players would dwell on their mistakes rather than move on to focus on the next play or at bat. The coach kept using the old adage that it is not over until it is over.
Then near the end of the regular season, Rockford beat Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, had a 10-run win over Pierz and swept a double header from Eden Valley-Watkins for the first time.
"Against Annandale in the subsection final, from pitch one I could see the players would give it everything they had and leave it on field," said Griffin.
The Rocket lineup has normally included catcher Landon Auld, Ben Arens at first, Taylor Dumas at second, Drew VanDehey at shortstop and Travis Peterson at second. The outfielders have mainly been Green in left, John Redepenning in center and LaMere in right.