ST. JAMES - Winnebago/Blue Earth generated five pivotal extra-base hits, while starting pitcher Mathew Bell and closer Alan Davids held United South Central's bats in check during Sunday's sub-district baseball championship game in St. James.
David Franta opened the Division II title tilt with a 330-foot home run, while Bell and Davids combined on a seven-hitter to power WBE's 4-2 triumph over USC.
Both WBE (8-7) and USC (13-7), along with third-place finisher St. James and fourth-place Welcome/Sherburn, advance to the Division II, 2nd District tournament Friday through next Sunday in Redwood Falls.
KUDOS — Winnebago/Blue Earth hitter David Franta (right) receives a congratulatory fist-bump from coach Steve Sonnicksen after Franta smacked a leadoff home run to open Sunday’s Division II, Sub-District American Legion baseball tournament championship game in St. James. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)
WBE, who captured the Sub-District 'C' crown en route to earning a state bid last summer, opens district action against host Redwood Falls at 7 p.m. Friday night.
"Our pitching kept us in the game before our bats finally came alive during the later innings today," said WBE head coach Steve Sonnicksen.
After Franta deposited a delivery from USC right-hander Steve Voigt over the center-field fence during the top of the first inning, the 6-foot-5 Bell and the WBE defense kept USC off of the scoreboard until a rare error allowed the tying run to cross the plate in the third.
WBE first baseman Seth Anderson displayed his vertical leap to snag Colin Wegner's rising liner with Dylan Herman on second base and two outs to avert USC's second-inning threat.
Grant Beecher, however, triggered USC's matching run in the third by singling before advancing all the way to third on a slow-rolling fielder's choice off Walker Linde's bat. Beecher scored on a WBE throwing error to third on the play to even the score at 1-all.
WBE answered the challenge during the top of the fifth to regain a lead that it would not relinquish.
Alex Stewart lined a leadoff single, reached second on Luke Schavey's sacrifice bunt that did not produce an out, advanced 90 more feet on Quinn Huisman's bunt and scored on Kaylan Legred's RBI single to left.
Brandyn Olsen then extended WBE's margin to 3-1 by delivering a leadoff single in the sixth before circling the bases on Christian Haugh's RBI double into the left-field corner.
Bell, who worked unscathed out of a bases-loaded jam with two out in the fifth, then averted another tie by notching his only strikeout of the game to strand USC's Riley Kloos at third base in the sixth. Kloos had singled, took second on a wild pitch and gained third on a groundout.
Legred and Davids then combined a pair of doubles during the top of the seventh to generate a key insurance run for WBE.
Legred doubled down the right-field line with one out before USC opted to intentionally walk Franta. Davids then hammered an RBI double to the right-center gap for a 4-1 lead.
USC combined an error with Beecher's single and a walk to Linde to plate one seventh-inning run on Trevor Stencel's RBI fielder's choice.
Davids, who inherited a bases-loaded situation with no outs in the bottom of the seventh, notched his second strikeout to preserve WBE's victory.
Davids did not allow a hit or a run in closing out the seventh for the save.
Bell allowed two runs - both unearned - on seven hits, struck out one and walked two in six-plus innings to earn the victory.
Voigt allowed four earned runs on five hits in five-plus frames to take the loss. He did not record a strikeout or a walk.
Stencel gave up three hits in two shutout innings of relief for USC.
Olsen and Legred each went 2-for-4 with a double for WBE, while the trio of Beecher, Linde and Voigt equally combined for six hits for USC.
WBE 100 011 1 - 4 8 2
USC 001 000 1 - 2 7 0
Mathew Bell (WP), Alan Davids (7, Sv) and Kaylan Legred. Steve Voigt (LP), Trevor Stencel (6) and Colin Wegner.
LOB-WBE 6; USC 9. 2B-Davids (WBE), Brandyn Olsen (WBE), Christian Haugh (WBE), Legred (WBE). HR-David Franta (WBE). SAC-Luke Schavey (WBE), Quinn Huisman (WBE).