In a game you heard on AM 1480 KAUS, the Austin Packers baseball team, the No. 5 seed in the Section 1AAA tournament was back in Stewartville Thursday to take on the Tigers, the No. 4 seed in the second round of the tournaments’ elimination bracket. The two teams first met in the quarterfinals last Saturday, and in a game Thursday that the Packers led heading into the late innings, the Tigers were able to tally three runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie the contest at 6-6, and a two-out, two-run, walk-off home run off the bat of Owen Sikkink in the bottom of the eighth inning ended Austin’s season in heartbreaking fashion by a score of 8-6.
The Packers, who were held to only two hits by Stewartville right hander Titan Klunder in a 3-0 shutout loss last Saturday got out to the quick start they were looking for Thursday when leadoff hitter Peyton Ransom singled on the first pitch of the game, and first baseman Nick Robertson then connected on a fastball and homered to right field, his first home run of the season to give Austin a quick 2-0 lead.
The Tigers then utilized a walk, a single, a stolen base and two RBI groundouts to tie the game at 2 in the bottom of the first, but the Packers came back with three runs of their own in the top of the second for a 5-2 lead. With one out, left fielder Brayden Bishop started the scoring rally by drawing a walk, right fielder Isaac Stromlund then followed with another walk and No. 9 hitter Isaiah Conway reached on an infield single to load the bases. Ransom then reached on an error, one of five the Tigers would commit in the game to score Bishop to make the score 3-2. Robertson followed his two-run homer with an RBI single to score Stromlund to give Austin a 4-2 lead, and Dakota Retterath then reached on a two-base error at third to bring Conway in to boost the Packer lead to 5-2.
Stewartville scored a run in the bottom of the third on two walks, a sacrifice fly and a double steal to make the score 5-3, but the game then remained scoreless until the top of the fifth, when Packer cleanup hitter Ethan Anderson singled and scored on a two-base throwing error at third when third baseman Kody Blom reached safely with one out to give Austin a 6-3 lead. The score remained 6-3 until the bottom of the sixth when Tiger designated hitter Jayce Klug was hit by a pitch by Robertson, who came on in relief of starter Peyton Ransom with one out in the fourth. Klug was erased when first baseman Zach Schrieber hit into a fielder’s choice, but No. 9 hitter Luke Huebel then hit a soft liner into center field for a single, and second baseman Alex Huebel followed with a single down the left field line to score Schrieber and cut the Austin lead to 6-4. On the play, a two-base error committed by the Packers, their only error of the game scored Luke Huebel to make the score 6-5 and sent Alex Huebel to third with still only one out. Centerfielder Owen Sikkink was then hit by a pitch, and shortstop Reed Neubauer then lofted a sacrifice fly to left field to score Huebel and tied the game at 6 after six innings.
The Packers trield to mount a two-out rally in the top of the seventh as with two outs, Blake Cummings drew a walk, and Kody Blom then followed with a base hit to left center. The ball was cut off deep in the gap by Sikkink and Cummings, who was moving on the pitch with the count 3 and 2 was waved around third. Sikkink hit the cutoff man Neubauer, who then fired a relay throw to the plate in time to get Cummings and keep the score tied at 6.
Robertson retired the Tigers in order in the seventh, sending the game to extra innings where, with one out in the top of the eighth, Stromlund singled and went to second on a grounder to first by Conway for the second out. Ransom then stepped to the plate and hit a grounder to Tiger second baseman Alex Huebel, who was able to range to his backhand, field the ball and throw to first just in time to get Ransom to keep the game knotted at 6-6. Robertson then retired the first two batters for Stewartville in the bottom of the eighth, but leadoff hitter Alex Huebel singled for his third hit of the game, and Sikkink, the top hitter in the Tiger lineup then golfed a low fastball over the left field fence for the first Tiger home run of the season to end the game by the score of 8-6.
Offensively for Austin, Robertson went 2 for 4 with the two-run homer, a single and three RBI’s, Peyton Ransom was 1 for 5 with a run scored, Kody Blom went 1 for 4 with a single, Isaac Stromlund was 1 for 2 with a single, two walks and a run scored, and Isaiah Conway wound up going 2 for 4 with a pair of singles and a run scored. Peyton Ransom pitched the first 3 and 1/3rds of an inning and gave up three runs, all earned, on three hits, striking out three, walking five and hitting one batter, and Nick Roberston threw the last 4 and 2/3rds of an inning and gave up five runs, three earned, on four hits, striking out three, walking none and hitting two batters.
Austin’s season comes to an end with a record of 9-14, while Stewartville moves into the third round of the elimination bracket to take on No. 7 Winona in Red Wing on Saturday. The Winhawks, the defending Section 1AAA champion upset No. 2 seed Red Wing 4-1 in the other elimination bracket game played Thursday, and the two teams will play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The winner of the game will then play the loser of the winner’s bracket final between No. 1 Northfield and No. 3 Byron,who will start the day at 11:00 a.m. The tournament will wrap up in Red Wing next Tuesday, with the championship final to be played at 5 p.m., with another game to follow, if necessary.