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A Chat trick!

Fri, Jun 13th, 2014
Posted in All Sports

The Chatfield boys baseball is Section 1A champs. Photo by Paul Trende

Going to state once and bringing home a football title. Amazing. Going to state twice and bringing home a wrestling title. Incredible. The same Class A school sending a third boys team to state in the same school year? Inconceivable. Reality! Chatfield’s baseball team has made it a hat trick for male sports in the Chosen Valley. They defied the odds, won six elimination games in a row, including back-to-back victories over the second-ranked Wabasha-Kellogg Falcons (20-2), to win the Section 1A baseball crown. From the office of redundancy, Chatfield (21-3) is again state bound. The Gophers leaned on a pair of senior pitchers (there football QB and TB), some clutch two-out hitting, and an all-around team effort to accomplish a feat they haven’t since 2006.

Finally Skare Good

Pitcher Nate Skare would’ve been the Gophers ace this year. But a nerve issued relegated the senior (mostly) to hitting and first base duty. He entered section title game one having pitched just 11 total innings this season. He picked a good time to get healthy, a good time to throw his first seven innings, a good time to throw a very good seven innings. His offensive mates gave him some early help. The Gophers jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Jake Neis and Ethan Woltz singled. With two-out, Noah Grant then rolled one between short and third to plate both runners (2-0). Ever tough W-K was quick to respond. With one out in their second, Bryce Breuer doubled to deep right center. Mike Guidinger reached on an error. Austin Passe’s sac fly scored Breuer. Brandon Huth singled home Guidinger making it 2-2 after two. Thru the middle innings, neither Skare nor W-K ace Austin Baab allowed a runner past second. Baab set down ten straight. It stayed tied until the bottom of the sixth. Neis led off with a double into the left-field corner. Skare then turned a sac bunt attempt into a single, putting runners on the corners. Up stepped post-season Mr. Clutch Ethan Woltz. Chatfield’s contact four-hitter did his job, lifting a fly ball to centerfield. It was deep enough to bring Neis in from third (3-2). With two away, Drew Hurley reached on an error, putting runners on the corners again. But a double steal then went awry. Tristan Aguilar (Skare’s pinch-runner) was gunned down at home to end the inning. The extra run didn’t matter. Skare stepped to the mound in the seventh and set down the bottom of W-K’s order. In a very good game of baseball, Chatfield forced a second deciding section title contest by a final of 3-2. Neis (2-3, 2B, 2 R), Woltz (1-2, RBI, R, Sac Fly), and Grant (1-3, 2 RBI) delivered the offense. Skare pitched his first complete game of the year, giving up just five hits and no earned runs (6 K, 1 BB). Passe (2B, RBI), Breuer (2B, R), Huth (RBI), Ben Glomski, and Ryan Wolfe were all 1 for 3 for W-K. Baab (7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 K, 0 BB) took his first loss of the year.

Neis Makes It Thrice

With Skare not pitching most of the year, fellow senior Jake Neis was Chatfield’s ace. Like Skare, the word injury floated above the talented all-around baseball player’s name. Neis tweaked something in his leg versus Lewiston-Altura in the sub-section play-offs. He re-tweaked it versus Kenyon-Wanamingo. One of Chatfield’s speedier guys, he was actually pinch-run for in that game. He re-tweaked it again early in game two versus Wabasha-Kellogg. He didn’t leave the mound at any point. He dueled Falcon undefeated sophomore Ryan Wolfe for nine innings and resolutely pitched Chatfield to state.

W-K got on the board first. Ben Glomski doubled off the wall in right-center in the second inning. He scored two at-bats later on a Mike Guidinger sac fly (1-0). But Chatfield, like W-K in game one, immediately replied. Junior Tommy Jech led off the top of the third with a double to right. Ben Pierce bunted him to third. Neis helped his own cause by authoring a two-out RBI single to score Jech (1-1). Both teams mounted threats in the fourth and fifth innings, but the score stayed tied until the sixth. In Chatfield’s top, Ethan ‘money’ Woltz got on base per an infield single. He smartly tagged to second after W-K catcher Jack Purviss made an excellent sliding play near the backstop on a pop-up behind home plate. Drew Hurley was then the Gophers two-out warrior. His hard ground ball bounced over Ty Gaedtke’s glove at third base, scoring Woltz, giving the Gophers a 2-1 lead. W-K quickly replied. Austin Baab authored a one-out double in the bottom of the inning. He went to third on a ground-out. With two out, Bryce Breuer hit a hard grounder to first that handcuffed Nate Skare. Caught between charging it and waiting for a hop, he had time to do neither. It ate him up, ricocheting off his leg toward second base. Breuer reached and Baab scored (2-2). Wolfe fanned three in the Gopher seventh. Neis set down three a half inning later. A second excellent game of high school baseball went to extra innings.

In the top of the eighth, Chatfield got a pair of one out singles by Skare and Woltz. Noah Grant then found that hole right next to third to plate Skare. The Gophers took a 3-2 lead and threatened for more. A walk loaded the bases loaded, but a suicide squeeze then went awry. The bunt attempt was popped up to the pitcher Wolfe, who then doubled Woltz off third to end the inning. W-K went to the bottom of the eighth needing a run to stay alive. Purviss led off by reaching per an error. A sac bunt, a strikeout, and two strikes later, and W-K was down to their last out, their last strike. Chatfield was nearly to Chaska. But Glomski muscled Neis’ two-strike offering just over a leaping Zach Eggers at shortstop. Purviss scored from second to tie the game at two.

In the top of the ninth, eight-hitter Jech led off by smacking a single to right. Pierce followed with a single down the left field line. Eggers drew a walk. Chatfield loaded the bases with no-one out and their best hitter up. Neis did what he needed to do, lifting a fly ball to center. Carter Duxbury (running for Jech) tagged and scored making it 4-3 Gophers. With two-on and one out, W-K again got out of the inning in unorthodox fashion. On a Skare fly-out, it was ruled Pierce tagged too soon for third, resulting in another double play. The game went to the bottom of the ninth, Chatfield up 4-3. Due up was W-K’s six, seven, and eight hitters. Neis had a guy to play with before the top of the Falcon order. He got Guidinger to ground-out to second. He walked Passe. Huth authored a fielder’s choice for out number two. It all came down to the senior Neis versus junior Gaedkte, the guy Skare struck out to end game one. It took Neis three pitches too. The last made it a hat trick, or Chat trick, for Gopher male sports. The Gophers downed W-K 4-3 in nine innings to win the 2014 Section 1A baseball title!

Like Skare before him, the senior Neis took the mound. He threw all nine innings giving up just one earned run on five hits (7 K’s, 2 BB’s, one intentional) against a powerful W-K line-up that entered with double digit team home runs, averaging nine-plus runs a game. He was also 1-4 with two RBI including the game-winning sac fly. Woltz continued his tear (3-4, R, SB). Pierce (2-3, sac bunt), Jech (2-4, 2B, R), and Hurley (1-3, RBI) contributed to a Gopher offense that out-hit W-K 11 to five. The Falcon soph fire-baller Wolfe (9 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, 9 K, 2 BB) suffered his first loss. Seniors Glomski (2-3, 2B, RBI, R) and Baab (2-4, 2 2B’s, R) had four of W-K’s five hits.

The Gophers are now 21-3 on the year. For Skare, Neis, and Sawyer Prinsen, their remarkable senior year continues. Nine other guys on the team, Woltz, Hurley, Jech, Pierce, Duxbury, T.J. Moechnig, Aaron Paulson, Riley Ahern, and Connor Demorest were also members of the state football title team. The squad has no members off the state title wrestling team. Chatfield received the third seed in the state playoffs and will play Royalton (12-10).

LaPlante Dual Title Highlights State Track

Eleven county athletes qualified for the state track and field meet. They all were excellent. Each scored ‘team’ points (better than 7th place) in at least one event. Chatfield senior thrower Jayme LaPlante’s efforts stood head and shoulders above all. LaPlante entered as the defending Class A state discus runner-up. He left the discus champion and the shot put champion. LaPlante topped best competitor Tyler Kolander of Waseca 162’08” to 162’04” to grab the discus title. Both competitors were significantly off their section seed paces (170-plus feet). A state shot competitor in 2013, LaPlante put forth a personal best throw (56’11 ½”) to clinch that championship. He did so in his last throw, bettering Luverne native Cody Ruhshus’ last throw (56’03”). It’s a fitting end to LaPlante’s senior year which started with a state championship (football). He (unofficially) won every shot put and discus competition he competed in this year. He wasn’t the only thrower putting forth a great effort. R-P/H sophomore Matt Culhane, in his first state competition, posted a career-best throw of 160’9” to claim third place. Fellow youthful teammate Noah Carlson was extra busy. The freshman competed in three events. His best finish was fifth in the 400. He couldn’t (50.52) replicate the time (50.09) that had him seeded first coming in. He added a 7th place finish in the Triple Jump and a 11th place finish in the Long Jump. R-P/H track has a couple of impressive young athletes going forward. Tro-Cane senior competitor Austin O’Hare capped his distance running career by taking 7th in the 3,200 on Friday, then 8th in the 1,600-meters on Saturday. It was O’Hare’s first state track and field competition. He’s qualified twice in cross country and three times with the basketball team; six total state competitions. Culhane, Carlson, and O’Hare helped the R-P/H team to an 11th place finish (21 points). LaPlante single handedly put Chatfield in 10th with his 24 points.

On the girl’s side of things, Chatfield’s 4x200 squad (Autum Erickson/Maddie Talamantes/Ashley Baker/Maddy Kammer) came in as the defending state champ. They came in having finished fourth at the section meet, qualifying by standard. They couldn’t replicate their 2013 title. They didn’t miss by much. The girls finished second (1:46:01) to state-level rival Osakis (1:45:63). It was the other way around last year. The Silverstreaks have finished top two each of the last four years. Chatfield’s 4x200 has made state seven straight years now, finishing top four six of those seven years. The squads lone senior Ashley Baker goes out having competed in six state relay competitions (four 4x200’s, two 4x100’s). All six finished top five. Presumably injured team member Mariah Bell will be back by next year. And thus, the Gophers’ reign as one of the top sprint relays in the state will continue.

Individually, one Trojan and one Hurricane represented R-P/H ladies track and field well. R-P junior pole vaulter Jordan Honken recorded her first aerial excursion above 10-feet. The junior’s mark of 10’3” was a season-best. It was good enough for a fourth place finish (ahead of the gal Honken finished second to at sections, Byron’s Hannah Coleman). The champion, Josie Lilja of the BOLD/BLH conglomerate, went 10’9”. Houston sophomore Anna Sweet finished fourth in her preliminary 100-meter heat (qualified), then fifth in the finals. That included besting Section 1A and TRC champion Morgan Shindelar of PEM. Shindelar was the only runner to beat Sweet in a 100-meter sprint (outside of state), doing so three times. Sweet’s time (12.85) was on the low end of consistent with what she’s ran this season. It was both girls’ first state appearance. Lone L/FC/M-C representative Olivia Haug made her second state appearance. She improved nicely. The Lanesboro junior, a two-time section 1A discus champ, was outside the top ten in 2013. Haug broke into the top five this year with a throw of 117’9”. It was a bit less than her section winning throw of 120’3” but good enough for fourth place. St. Clair’s Katelyn Weber took first with a throw of 126’1”. Of all the state competitors from the county schools, only Autum Erickson (Chatfield) didn’t finish top ten in an individual event. She didn’t qualify for the 100 finals (8th in her preliminary heat). It’s the best overall county track and field showing in the Fillmore County Journal Sports era (the last four years).

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