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Baseball: Pierz survives scare against Melrose

Pierz competed in the Section 6-2A playoffs.

The Pierz Pioneers baseball team celebrates after two runs score on the final play for a 10-9 Pierz win over Melrose Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in the Section 6-2A playoffs in St. Cloud.
The Pierz Pioneers baseball team celebrates after two runs score on the final play for a 10-9 Pierz win over Melrose Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in the Section 6-2A playoffs in St. Cloud.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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ST. CLOUD — It was a tough day to be one of the top two seeds in Section 6-2A at Faber and Putz Fields in St. Cloud Wednesday, June 1.

After No. 8 seeded Eden Valley-Watkins knocked off top-seeded Albany 4-2 at Faber Field, the No. 2 seeded Pierz Pioneers were down to their last strike against the No. 10 seed Melrose Dutchmen.

With two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the seventh, Pierz’s Jeremy Bingessner hit a mile-high popup toward first base. None of the Dutchmen caught it and by the time the ball landed Andy Winscher was crossing home as the winning run and the Pioneers escaped with a 10-9 win to advance in the Winner’s Bracket.

“That’s a play that every coach harps on throughout the season — a popup and if no one is on it you are trying to get to second and with two outs you are running and are scoring in case that ball drops,” Pierz head coach Dylan Pittman said. “A kid like Jeremy hits it a mile when it hits it straight and hits it a mile when it goes up, too. We’ve all seen a play like that and it just happened.”

The seventh-inning rally started for Pierz with a one-out pinch-hit single by Louis Gruber. He stole second and advanced to third on a flyout to center. Winscher was then hit by a pitch and stole second during Bingessner’s at-bat.

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The Pioneers were able to get the win despite being outhit 10-7 and benefitted from five Melrose errors.

“We didn’t play a pretty game at all today, but we gave ourselves a chance and pulled it out,” Pittman said. “We have a great group of guys that keep their heads up and in every baseball game different stuff happens that’s a head-scratcher. So you have to expect anything and everything at all times and you have to hustle.”

In the top of the seventh with two outs, Melrose’s Anthony Berscheit launched a ball over the center fielder’s head and was able to beat the relay for an inside the park home run to give Melrose a 9-8 lead.

Bingessner started for the Pioneers and lasted 5.2 innings and allowed eight runs with six strikeouts and four walks. Ben Virnig got the win and pitched 1.1 innings.

“With pitch counts now you are just looking at your depth and trying to find success,” Pittman said. “We know what Jeremy can do and there are a lot of times where good pitchers don’t start hitting their groove until the fourth or fifth inning. Jeremy didn’t have his best day, but he hung in there.”

Maxwell Wehlage started for the Dutchmen and went 6.2 innings and struck out three. Ryan Herdering got tagged with the loss after facing two batters.

In a back-and-forth contest, Melrose broke a 5-5 tie with a three-run top of the fourth. The Dutchmen rallied with two outs. A double by Westin Middendorf followed by a hit batter put runners on first and second.

Melrose then produced three straight RBI singles to take an 8-5 lead.

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“You don’t want to overlook anyone,” Pittman said. “We had two games at the end of our year that went down to the last pitch. It’s baseball and if someone has their best guy on the mound they have a chance. It’s a deep section with a lot of competition, but with baseball, you just don’t want to overlook anybody.”

Pierz battled back to score two in the bottom of the fifth. Mason Herold scored on a defensive obstruction call and Winscher blooped an RBI single to make it 8-7 Melrose.

The Pioneers did leave the bases loaded in the bottom of fifth, but tied the game on a Herold sacrifice fly in the sixth which scored Virnig, who doubled for his second hit earlier in the sixth.

Pierz got the scoring starting with a four-run bottom of the first inning. Two hit batters put runners on first and second and Virnig ripped an RBI single to put the Pioneers on the board.

An error by the third baseman scored the second run and put runners on second and third with two outs. Kirby Fischer completed the four-run first with a two-run single which was the first of his two singles.

“Anytime you get up early it’s a bit of a trap,” Pittman said. “And sometimes you relax and you’re not playing ball the same way you would. It’s just one of those where you have to trust the process and stay in the game no matter the score.”

The Dutchmen responded with a five-run top of the second which was aided by three walks.

A bases-loaded walk put Melrose on the board and then a bases-clearing double by Hunter Goihl tied the game. Another double by Connor Anderson gave Melrose its first lead.

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Pierz tied the game in the bottom of the second on another throwing error by the Dutchmen third baseman.

“We need to do all the little things to win these games,” Pittman said. “We are going to try to forget about most of what happened today except for the last part where we won and move on to tomorrow.”

Melrose 9 10 5

Pierz 10 7 0

WP: Ben Virnig. LP: Ryan Herdering. 2B: Prz-Ben Virnig, M-Hunter Goihl, Connor Anderson, Westin Middendorf. HR: M-Anthony Berscheit.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34 .

Pierz 10, Melrose 9

Key: Pierz gets a miracle in the bottom of the seventh to advance in the Section 6-2A Winner’s Bracket

Overall: Prz 17-4, Mel 10-9.

Next: Pierz vs. Wadena-Deer Creek/Kimball at Putz Field in St. Cloud 7 p.m. Thursday, June 2.

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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