Class 2A Baseball: Pioneers advance to state semifinals
Pierz 6, NLS 2 The key: The Pioneers scored three times in the bottom of the sixth to expand upon a 3-2 lead Overall: P 25-2, NLS 18-6 Next: Pierz vs. Duluth Marshall in Class 2A championship semifinals, Putz Field, St. Cloud, 2:30 p.m. Friday; P...
Pierz 6, NLS 2
The key: The Pioneers scored three times in the bottom of the sixth to expand upon a 3-2 lead
Overall: P 25-2, NLS 18-6
Next: Pierz vs. Duluth Marshall in Class 2A championship semifinals, Putz Field, St. Cloud, 2:30 p.m. Friday; Pierz/Duluth loser vs. Minnehaha Academy/Maple Lake loser in 2A consolation semifinals 5 p.m. Friday.
ST. CLOUD-Prior to the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament, Pierz Pioneers coach considered Preston Rocheleau and Matt Tautges No. 1 and No. 1A in his pitching rotation.
Rocheleau got the nod Thursday at Putz Field against the New London-Spicer Wildcats and didn't disappoint, scattering two runs and five hits in 6.1 innings and pitching the third-seeded Pioneers into Friday's semifinals against Duluth Marshall. He struck out six and walked five and allowed five hits and two earned runs.
"To be honest, Preston didn't have his best stuff," Pierz coach Danny Saehr said, "but that's being really picky when you give up just two runs on five hits. He wasn't as sharp as he has been the last two weeks but Preston has pitched phenomenal for us all year long."
Matt Kummet came on to seal the deal for the Pioneers, recording the final two outs. Lane Girtz, Rocheleau and Brandon Dickmann each had two hits for Pierz which won for the 25th time in 27 games this season.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Pierz's Lane Girtz led off by slashing a triple to the gap in right-center. He scored on Kummet's sacrifice fly to center.
Pierz surged ahead 3-2 in the fifth. Dickmann walked, was bunted to second, took third on a ground out and scored on Tautges' single to left. Lane Girtz scored Tautges, who stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error, on an infield single.
The Pioneers tacked on three runs in the sixth on Brett Kapsner's RBI single and Dickmann's 2-run single. Dickmann, the Pioneers' first baseman, entered the game hitting .167.
"Brandon's average is probably not where he would like it to be," Saehr said, "but the kid just ropes the ball in batting practice. I have a ton of confidence in him, his teammates have confidence in him.
"I went up and talked to him with runners on second and third and I said, 'Brandon, go up and be aggressive and get a pitch to handle.' That was a huge single to right field to score two runs. I'm very happy for Brandon because he's been waiting for that moment."
Kummet and Rocheleau traded places with out one in the seventh after Rocheleau issued a walk. Kummet struck out losing pitcher Will Roguske before Wyatt White skied to shallow center. Pierz second baseman Lane Girtz backpedaled, center fielder Brett Kapsner ran in, they collided and the ball dropped.
"I've seen more fly balls like that that were misplayed today than I have in the previous two weeks combined," Saehr said. "Between wind and sun, balls are kind of drifting up there.
"That actually is the first ball between those that hit the ground all year. Those two are cousins. I'm sure they will be hashing it out on the bus ride home."
Kummet then struck out Josh Soine to end the game.
"That's Kummet," Saehr said. "He's been our closer for four years. It's nerve-wracking at times but I have all the confidence in the world in him. That's why he's in that spot.
"Maybe we dropped a ball that we should have had but the bottom line is the kids found a way to win. And, boy do those three runs in the bottom of the sixth look big right now."
Jake Schmidt flared a single to center to lead off the NLS third, was bunted to second and scored the game's first run on John Perkins' single.
White, who finished 3-for-4, smacked Rocheleau's first pitch in the top of the fourth off the scoreboard for a 2-0 NLS lead.
The Wildcats left the bases jammed in the sixth. White led off with a base hit and Soine was hit by a pitch. After a bunt moved both runners into scoring position, Derek Dolezal was intentionally walked to load the bases. Rocheleau then got a strikeout and fly out to extinguish the threat.
"For Preston to battle through bases loaded with one out, and strike a guy out, that's just being a gamer," Saehr said. "Preston has done that all year for us. It's just a tremendous sign and a credit to him for bearing down when he needs to.
"He got a lot of ground balls and trusted his defense behind him. I could not be more proud of what he did for us tonight."
NL-Spicer 001 100 0-2 6 1
Pierz 000 123 x-6 9 0
NLS: Will Roguske and Derek Dolezal.
Pierz: Preston Rocheleau, Matt Kummet (7) and Kummet, Rocheleau (7).
WP: Rocheleau (9-0). LP: Roguske (6-3). 2B: NLS-Wyatt White. 3B: P-Luke Girtz. HR: NLS-White.