One-run decisions in all three playoff games

ABOVE LEFT: While the team celebrates with its post-game victory tradition - a back flip by Isaac Griffin - Carter Bratland (with the blue bucket full of water) is about to drench Chandler Bergrud, who had just belted the game-winning hit against Chatfield in the American Legion Sub-State Tournament. ABOVE RIGHT: Chandler Bergrud belts the ball into the outfield, a walk-off hit that drove in the winning run on the final play of the Legion Tournament win against Chatfield. BELOW: Isaac Griffin dives for home plate to score after colliding with St. Charles catcher David Hansen during American Legion tournament game. Photos by S. Lee Epps
S. Lee Epps

All three playoff games were decided by one-run margins as the season ended with a loss, a win and a loss for the Spring Grove American Legion boys (4-3) in the Southeast Sub-State East Division Tournament. The team with the most hits lost all three games. 

The home team won all three well-pitched games with the Lions falling 2-1 at Plainview on July 15 (Monday), winning 2-1 with a walk-off hit versus Chatfield on Wednesday and falling 4-3 in the heat at St. Charles on Friday.

The 14U game was canceled since several of those players were needed on the same night in the Legion (19U) playoff game.

The Little League (7th grade & under) Lions dropped a pair of one-run decisions at Mabel. The 11 and under guys split a pair of league contests.

Legion baseball (19U): Plainview 2, SG 1

Carter Bratland pitched a two-hitter with seven strikeouts and only three walks and allowed no earned runs. But two errors and the second hit permitted No. 3 seed Plainview (7-3) to score what would become the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

No. 6 seed Spring Grove out-hit the Pirates 6 to 2 (all singles), but the Lions committed four errors to none for Plainview.

The Grove guys had loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning, but winning pitcher Kaden Lamb escaped with a strikeout, a pop-up and a ground out.

But the Lions broke the scoreless tie in the next inning with three hits, the first by Isaac Griffin who would score following singles from Chandler Bergrud and Caleb Nerstad.

But the home team tied it at 1-all in the bottom of the inning with the Pirates' first hit of the game, a passed ball, a ground out and an error.

Spring Grove batters went down in order during the final two innings.

Lamb struck out six Lions in six innings. A first-inning walk and a hit batter in that fateful, scoreless fourth frame were the only charitable gifts. Left-handed reliever Connor Schumacher struck out one while picking up the save in the seventh.

Nerstad batted 2 for 3 and Griffin 2 for 4 with Bergrud and Bratland supplying one hit each.

No. 6 seed Spring Grove (3-2) dropped into the losers' bracket to host No. 7 Chatfield (3-4).

SG  000  010  0 – 1  6 4

Pv   000  011  x – 2  2 0

LOB: SG 7, Pv 5

Spring Grove 2, Chatfield 1

A walk-off hit deep into the outfield by Bergrud scored Nathan Solberg with the winning run in the bottom of the final seventh inning. 

Chatfield (3-5) had been one out away from elimination in the top of the seventh when back-to-back singles scored the only Gopher run to tie score at 1-1.

It had been scoreless through the first three and a half innings until a strange sequence produced an unearned run for Spring Grove. Payton Leahy reached base on an error and went to third on a single from Ethan Matzke. After the next batter missed on a bunt attempt, Matzke was caught in a rundown between first and second. While he was being tagged out, Leahy scored all the way from second.

That bottom-of-the-fourth-inning 1-0 lead held until the Gophers eked out the tying run in the top of the seventh.

Bergrud pitched the first five innings (4 strikeouts, 1 walk) and left with the one-run lead. He would end up being the winning batter instead of the winning pitcher.

Instead of being credited with a save, Isaac Griffin (4 hits, one strikeout, no walks) would be the winning pitcher after two innings of relief.

Chatfield starter Austin Storm went six innings but would not be the pitcher of record either. After his RBI single tied the score, Storm (2 for 3) was relieved by Caden Nolte who took the loss.

Nolte walked Solberg, who advanced to third on a single from Griffin. Chatfield brought centerfielder Max Aug in to make five infielders. 

Caleb Nerstad hit a line drive that appeared to be the winning hit, but Aug leaped high and grabbed it to save the run and out number one. 

The Gophers intentionally walked Bratland to load the bases with the best chance of either a double play or force out at home.

After a hard-hit ball went foul, Bergrud sent another pitch deep into the outfield to score the winner.

For the second straight game, there were no extra-base hits. Three of the Gophers' six hits came while scoring the equalizer in the last inning.

Bergrud (2 for 4) had two of the five Lion hits with one each from Matzke, Isaac Griffin and Caleb Griffin.

A critical defensive play came in the second inning with Gopher runners on first and third bases. Chatfield attempted to steal second base, not expecting the Lions to throw to second with a runner in scoring position at third. But catcher Bratland rifled a perfect throw to shortstop Nerstad to get Storm stealing second base for the third out. The run did not score, preserving the scoreless tie.

Later, there were high quality catches of fly balls by second baseman Leahy and left fielder Matzke.

No. 6 seed Spring Grove improved to 4-2 and remained alive in the losers' bracket and a July 20 game at No. 5 seed St. Charles (8-7), a team the Lions had previously defeated 2-1.

Ch  000  000  1 – 1  6 3

SG 000  100  1 – 2 5  0 

LOB: SG 7, Ch 4

St. Charles 4, Spring Grove 3 

It was the second stellar pitching performance of the summer against the Saints for Isaac Griffin, who has now gone 13 innings without walking a batter while striking out 15 at the St. Charles ball diamond. 

In the playoff rematch, half of the 18 Saints outs came via strikeouts with Griffin fanning eight and Nerstad striking out one in one inning of relief.

On the mound for the Saints, it was again Will Smith, who has not walked a batter in 14 innings versus Spring Grove, this time striking out four. And this time, he got the win.

The Lions out-hit St. Charles 7 to 6, but most of the Saints' hits went for extra bases - a home run, two triples and a double.

But Spring Grove also displayed some power with a home run and double from Bratland (2 for 3) and another double from Nerstad (2 for 3). Matzke was a third Lion batting 2 for 3.

Spring Grove trailed 3-0 with two outs and nobody on base in the top of the third when Isaac Griffin singled and came home on Nerstad's double just before Bratland’s homer cleared the bases and the outfield fence to suddenly make it a new game at 3-all. 

But the Saints answered in the bottom of the inning with a lead-off double from Mark Buringa (2 for 3) and a two-out RBI single from Kyler Reps. 

Three and half scoreless innings later, the season ended for Spring Grove.

There was only one error in the game (St. Charles) and several outstanding plays by Lion infielders - Bergrud at shortstop, Solberg playing third base and Leahy at second.

SG  003  000  0 – 3  7 0

SC  211  000  x – 4  6 1

LOB: SG 4, SC 2

Little League (7G & under): Mabel 2, SG 1

Mabel scored the winning run with a passed ball and an error in the bottom of the seventh inning of a regularly scheduled five inning affair..

In that second extra inning, both teams started with a runner on second base. In the top of the seventh, the Lion runner advanced to third base on a single by Gavin Ostern. But winning pitcher Cayden Tollefsrud ended the threat with his 20th strikeout. Of the 21 Lion outs, 20 came with strikeouts. He walked only one.

The late Ostern single was only the second Spring Grove hit. Bryce Berns had tripled back in the second inning and scored on a passed ball just before the inning ended with a strikeout.

Mabel tied the score at 1-1 in the fourth with a three-base error and a passed ball.

Lion pitcher Ezra Griffin tossed a three-hitter with five strikeouts and only three walks.

Mabel thus earned a season split in league games with the Lions having also taken a one-run win (6-5) earlier in the summer. It was the final league game for Spring Grove with a 5-5 league record.

Mabel also won the second non-league game, 5-4. The Lions had two base hits - a double from Brandon Jahnke and a single by Ostern.

This all sixth grade squad left the diamond at 5-14 (5-5 league).

11 & under: Holmen Vipers 9, SG 5

Devon Williams batted 2 for 2 to pace the Lion attack

11 & under: SG 11, La Crescent 0

Gabe Klug struck out five batters while pitching the four-inning shutout as the Lions improved to 3-8 (2-6 league).

Jacob Solum went 2 for 3 with a 2-RBI home run and a 2-RBI triple. Klug contributed a 2-RBI double.