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Gopher baseball takes third at state


Fri, Jun 20th, 2014

By Paul Trende

A state football championship for Chatfield; awesome. A state wrestling title just months later; incredible. A state baseball title just months after that? That one wasn’t to be. Brian Baum’s Gophers went to Chaska. They saw. They didn’t conquer, but they accomplished a lot. They won a state quarterfinal game, a first for a Gopher baseball club. They made a valiant comeback only to agonizingly lose in the semifinals. They then were one of only nine teams in the state to end the season with a victory. They posted Chatfield baseball’s best ever finish. The Gophers are the Minnesota Class A third place team for 2014.

Getting Off the Quarterfinal Schneid

Chatfield entered the state tournament a combined 1-10 in five previous appearances (’98, ’01-03’, 06’). They’d never opened with a quarterfinal win (0-5). The 2014 Gophers (#3 seed, 21-3) bucked that trend versus Section 5A champion Royalton (12-10). The Royals came out swinging early. Lead-off man Michael Petron and two-hitter Brady Moulzolf went single-double to start the game, putting runners on second and third with no out. But pitcher Jake Neis took care of the threat with a strikeout and a pair of put-outs. Zach Eggers and Neis singled in succession to start the Gopher first. Nate Skare was subsequently hit by a pitch (bases loaded). An RBI sac fly by Ethan Woltz and a RBI groundout by Noah Grant made it 2-0 Chatfield. The Royals cut that lead in half in the third. Moulzolf singled, stole second, and came around to score on a Nathan Psych RBI-single (2-1). Chatfield got an unearned run in the fourth. Drew Hurley’s seemingly routine fly-ball was misplayed. He eventually found his way to third. There, with Ben Pierce on first per a fielder’s choice, Chatfield worked the hot-box home-steal. Pierce kept Royalton’s defense at bay long enough for Hurley to score (3-1). Chatfield then scored three runs in the bottom of fifth on four consecutive two out hits. A Woltz single scored Eggers (ROE). Noah Grant then singled. A wild pitch moved Woltz and Grant up a base. Hurley then authored a two-run single to make it 6-1. The Royals got a couple in the bottom of the sixth per a Petron 2-run single. They left two on. It was their last threat. Neis (7 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, Win) recorded two of his six K’s in the seventh to send Chatfield to the semis 6-3. The Gophers tagged Royal pitcher Parker Brezinka for eight hits though just one earned run. Moechnig reached three times (2-2, HBP). Woltz (1-2, 2 RBI, R, Sac Fly, BB) stayed hot. Hurley (1-3, 2 RBI, R) and Grant (1-3, RBI) drove in the other Gopher runs. Moulzolf (3-3, R, SB) and Petron (2-4, 2 RBI) had five of the Royals’ eight hits.

Walk-Off Walk Ends State Title Hopes

Chatfield (22-3) moved on to the semifinals to face undefeated (24-0) tournament 2-seed New York Mills. Nate Skare took the mound and battled threat after threat in the early innings. The Eagles put a couple on in the first with one out, only for Skare and company to get out of the jam. In the second, NYM got a trio of hits in succession. Lead-off man Nick Kupfer’s single scored Austin Manevil to put the Eagles on the board. An inning later, the damage was much worse. With two on and two out, Tucker Skoblik authored an RBI single (2-0). With runners on first and second, Manevil then hit a chopper to Hurley at third. A bobble narrowly allowed all runners to be safe (bases loaded). Nine-hole hitter A.J. Wegscheid immediately followed with a hard line-drive to center. Woltz made a diving attempt, but the ball skipped off his glove. It skipped far enough away for Wegscheid to check into third base with a 3-run triple. After three, the Eagles led 5-0. In the fourth, Eggers, the Gopher’s lead-off energy-guy, got Chatfield on the board. He reached per an error, stole second, advanced to third on a ground-out, and scored on a Skare ground-out (5-1). At that point, NYM pitcher Tyler Patron had held Chatfield hitless. That ended in the fifth. The Gophers first three hitters to bat (Grant, Hurley, and Moechnig) all singled. Moechnig’s rap drove in pinch-runner Aaron Paulson (5-2). Ben Pierce then drove in Hurley with a groundout (5-3). The Gophers then got three more hits in succession with two out. Eggers drove in pinch-runner Payton Lund. After Eggers stole second, Jake Neis drove him in. All told, after zero hits and one run through four innings, the Gophers put together a six-hit, four-run fifth to make it a whole new ball game at 5-5. Five of the six hits went to the opposite field. From there, it all came down to the bottom of the seventh. The Eagles, fresh off a walk-off win in the quarterfinals versus Ely, caught lightening in a bottle again. Brandon Kupfer led-off with a single. He was sacrificed to second. An intentional walk followed. Daniel Kraft singled to deep short (bases loaded, one out). Seven-hitter Skoblik then saw five pitches. Only one was a strike. The last was a ball. His walk plated Kupfer as New York Mills got the 6-5 walk-off victory. Wegscheid (2-3, 3B, 3 RBI), Skoblik (1-3, 2 RBI, R), and the Kupfer’s, Nick (2-3, RBI, SB) and Brandon (2-4, R), led the Eagles. Patron got the win (7 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 K, 0 BB). For Chatfield, Skare took the loss (6 1/3 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 4 K, 4 BB). Moechnig (2-3, RBI), Neis (2-4, RBI), and Eggers (1-4, 2 SB, 2 R, RBI) led Chatfield offensively. The Gophers entered the game having won 18 of 19.

Skare’s Redemption Leads to Third Place

After the hard loss, Chatfield had about an hour to regroup. Their third place game with tournament top seed BOLD (Bird Island, Olivia, Lake Lillian District) immediately followed. Both teams entered with the phrase ‘gut check’ coming to mind. Chatfield (22-4) had just dramatically lost. BOLD (22-4), the 2013 Class A state champion, had their repeat hopes crushed a few hours earlier in eight innings by New Life Academy. With each team having already expended their top two pitchers, it came down to who had what left for throwers. The Gophers won that battle. Junior hurler Tommy Jech, who actually entered state tournament play with Chatfield’s best pitching record (6-0), did a lot better job than BOLD’s mound-men. The Gophers hammered Warrior pitching. BOLD opened the game with a run in the first before turning to senior Trevor Nissen. He faced just six batters, giving up four hits and two walks. Per a 2-run single by Woltz, and then an RBI walk by Hurley, Chatfield led 3-1 after one. The three run inning was the first of four such Gopher frames. They duplicated the feat in the second. The Warriors then got a 3-run third to keep it a game (6-4). But Chatfield put up three runs each in the fourth and fifth innings (12-4). They tagged BOLD’s second pitcher, Brett Grund, for eleven hits and nine runs (7 ER). Hitting in particular was cathartic for senior 1B/P Nate Skare. After walking the game-winning run in versus NYM, Skare replied with his best day of hitting. He too liked things in three’s. He finished the game 3 for 3 (3 RBI, 3 R). Included was the only home run hit in Chaska, Skare’s only deep fly of the year, a 2-run shot in the fifth that capped the Gopher’s scoring. BOLD added a couple in the sixth. Skare’s glove ended the contest. His excellent sprinting grab while reaching into foul play alongside first secured Chatfield third place in Class A by a final of 12-6. Woltz (3-4, R) also drove in three runs. Jech and Noah Grant were each 2 for 3. Jech got the win (6 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 2 K, 3 BB). He finishes his junior year 7-0. Eggers (1-4, 2 R, RBI), Hurley (1-2, 2B, 2 RBI, R), Moechnig (1-3, 2 RBI), and Neis (1-4, 2 R) also were offensive. The later made multiple nice plays at short. Every spot in the line-up (1-9) recorded at least one hit including all five graduating seniors. Eight guys scored. BOLD was led by lead-off man Trent Athmann (2-2, 2B, RBI, 2 R, SB) and clean-up hitter Riley Kramer (2-4, 2B, R).

Chatfield’s season finishes at 23-4 (1A East runner-up, TRC South and Section 1A champs, State 3rd Place). Brian Baum’s coaching record for the 2013-204 school year, with girls’ basketball (23-1), stands at 46-5. And thus, as a student contingent of Chatfield fans once chanted, ‘All Hail Baum!’ Making the Class A All-Tournament team were Neis and Moechnig. Neis joins older brother Nate (2003) as having done so. Jake hit safely in 10 of 11 post-season games, batting .410 (16-39) with 6 RBI and 11 runs scored. He went his entire senior year without striking out. He was also 5-2 on the mound. Junior Ethan Woltz hit safely in all but one post-season game too, batting .421 (16-38) with 13 RBI. Moechnig, a junior catcher, led the Gophers at the state tourney with a .444 average (4-9, 3 RBI). Eight of the nine Chatfield regulars amassed at least three hits. The team’s state tourney batting average was .369 (31-84), a full 70 points higher (.299) than the regular season. Five seniors graduate; Neis, Eggers, Skare, Grant, and Sawyer Prinsen. They’ll be missed. Athletic supporters, media people, fans, coaches, local businesses, and players alike can finally take a break. The 2013-2014 school year most certainly was that of the Gopher.

State Golf; Falcon Girls Take Third

State hardware is always good. The Fillmore Central girl’s golf team went to the state meet at Pebble Creek Golf Course in Becker and got some good. The Falcons, making their first state appearance, rode the efforts of an unlikely lead performer. The meet was essentially a three team race. BOLD (365) narrowly led defending state champs Legacy Christian Academy (367) and the Falcons (369) after day one. Sophomore Laura Donney (88, tied for 10th) and senior Keeley Todd (89, tied for 13th) paced FC at that point on the 18-hole par-72 course. Day two saw LCA take command. The Lions third and fourth scorers combined to shave 15 strokes off their day one totals. Jillian Johnson shaved ten alone (95-85). The improvements led LCA to cut 16 strokes, to post a day two 351 (a 718 overall), which won them their second straight title. Lewiston-Altura (2011 & 2012) won back-to-back titles prior to that. Meanwhile, FC got nice day two improvements from their third and fourth scorers, 8th grader Grace Miller and junior Katie Tammel. Each was six strokes better (Miller 95-89, Tammel 100-94). Their efforts, the continued surprise great play of Donney, and the consistency of Todd, helped FC to close to within a stroke (733) of BOLD (732). The Falcons took home the third place trophy.

Donney led the FC with a 36-hole total of 177. It was good enough for 13th place overall (in an 87-girl field). It was the first time Donney led FC in a meet this season. Her best team finish had been third. She was FC’s fifth golfer with an 18-hole 110 at the Section meet. Her 46 and 47 (tie) on the back nine each day would’ve been her two lowest 9-hole totals of the year had she not shot 42’s on the front nine! Donney thus put together her four best 9-hole rounds of the year in sequence on the biggest stage. Keeley Todd, on the back of a couple 43’s, had FC’s second best score (181). The team’s only senior finished 17th overall. She gets to hold bragging rights over brother Andy (tied for 33rd at state in 2012). Grace Miller’s 184 also put her in the top 20 (tied for 20th). Katie Tammel’s 194 was tied for 38th. A day one back-nine 53 was her bugaboo (47, 46, and 48 otherwise). Madison Scheevel, the only 7th grader in the competition, was the fifth Falcon scorer (201, tied for 53rd). A day two back nine 55 was her gremlin (49, 48, & 49 otherwise). Elayna Kiehne (221) rounded out FC’s team. The Falcons excellent season ends with the girl’s finishing less than first just twice (W-K and state tourneys). With just Todd graduating, the future looks bright for Coach Lane Powell’s program.

On the purely individual side of things, Kingsland senior Karli Bly finished 64th with a 208. She was consistent day one (51, 54), then back and forth (45, 58) day two. She was her school’s only state competitor in any sport this season. The girls champion was Christine Piwnica (159) of Southwest Christian (Chaska). She won by nine strokes over Westbrook-Walnut Grove’s Abby Herding (168). On the boy’s side of things, FC’s Jordan Miller (Grace’s older brother) was the top county performer. The junior was tied for 24th heading to the final nine holes. A round of 39 allowed Jordan to crack the top 20 (17th-tie) with a 36-hole total of 164 (20-over on the 18-hole par-72). R-P junior Charlie Krambeer was tied for 8th (38, 41 > 79) after day one and tied for 12th (121) thru 27 holes. A 47 on the final nine dropped him to 26th overall (168). Fellow Trojan, senior Hudson Stensgard finished tied for 53rd with a 179. He finished 52nd a year ago with a 177. The boy’s individual champion was 8th grader Brock Bliese (150) of Mounds Park Academy (St. Paul). He narrowly downed Cordell Weber (151) of Martin County West and Adam Christiansen (152) of Murray County Central. Dawson-Boyd was the guy’s team champ.

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