In a game you heard on AM 1480 KAUS, the Southland Rebels, the No. 2 seed in the Section 1A tournament were looking to advance back into the championship bracket versus No. 3 seed Fillmore Central/Lanesboro in the tournament’s elimination bracket final. The heavy-hitting Falcons had advanced to the elimination bracket final via a 12-2, 5-inning win over defending section champion Hayfield earlier the day Saturday, but it was the Rebels using small ball to the max to score four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, and righthander Travis Kirtz did the rest on the mound as the Rebels downed the Falcons 8-3.
Southland jumped out to a 1-0 lead after one inning of play as Gavin Nelsen led off the bottom of the first with a single and later scored when designated hitter Jack Bruggeman beat out a fielder’s choice on an attempted double play. Kirtz retired the first seven Falcon hitters he faced and didn’t give up a hit until the top of the fourth inning when FC/L used a hit batsman, a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly and an RBI single to tie the game at one.
Southland then took control of the game in the bottom of the fourth when leadoff hitter Jack Bruggeman drew a walk. Catcher Jonas Wiste then laid down a bunt up the third base line that was overrun by Falcon third baseman Peyton Olson for an error to put runners at first and third with no one out. Center fielder Riley Jax was also bunting on a safety squeeze, and the throw from left-handed pitcher Cooper Ferrie to catcher Dillon O’Connor was off the mark, scoring Bruggeman to make the score 2-1 and putting Wiste at third and Jax at second. A walk to Easton Meyer then loaded the bases, and Isaac Felton also laid down a squeeze bunt that wound up being scored a hit for an RBI to score Wiste to make the score 3-1. The Rebels went right back to the squeeze play with the next hitter, Maverick Hannah, who put down a bunt to score Meyer to give the Rebels a 4-1 lead, and Felton later scored when Southland pulled off a double steal to make the score 5-1 Rebels after four.
Southland added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth inning when Jonas Wiste drew a one-out walk, went to third on a double off the bat of Riley Jax and scored when an attempted pick-off throw from Falcon catcher Dillon O’Connor skipped past Olson and down the left field line to make the score 6-1, and the Rebels added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth when Tyson Stevens singled with one out, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out single off the bat of Bruggeman, who then scored a batter later when Wiste belted an RBI triple down the right field line to give the Rebels an 8-1 lead heading into the seventh inning.
Kirtz was able to keep the Falcon hitters off-balance all game long by mixing a slow curve with his fastball, and after their one run in the fourth, Kirtz retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings, and in the top of the seventh, a two-RBI single from center fielder Gunnar Benson cut the Rebels lead to 8-3, but Kirtz then fanned Cooper Farrie looking and got No. 9 nitter Jacob Mandecko to fly out to center to end the game.
Kirtz wound up giving up three runs, all earned, on four hits, striking out five, walking one and hitting three batters to earn his seventh win of the season on the mound. Offensively for Southland, Gavin Nelsen was 1 for 3 with a run scored, Tyson Stevens went 2 for 4 with a triple, a single and a run scored, Travis Kirtz was 1 for 3, Jack Bruggeman wound up going 1 for 3 with an RBI and two runs scored, Jonas Wiste was 1 for 2 with a triple, an RBI, two walks and two runs scored, Riley Jax was 1 for 4 officially with a double, Isaac Felten was 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored, and Maverick Hannah chipped in an RBI with his squeeze bunt in the bottom of the fourth inning.
With the win, Southland is now 16-3 on the season, and the Rebels move back into the winner’s bracket versus Lyle/Pacelli at Dick Seltz Field on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Southland will need two wins to advance to the State Class A Baseball Tournament, while the Athletics will need one. Two wins for the Rebels will qualify them for the state tournament for the first time, while a win for Lyle/Pacelli will put the Athletics in the state tournament for the first time as the Lyle/Pacelli cooperative. The then-Pacelli Shamrocks qualified for the state tournament in 1983.