The Austin Packers baseball team, the No. 8 seed in the Section 1AAA tournament traveled to No. 5 seed Northfield Tuesday to try to advance in the tournament’s elmination bracket, but it was the Raiders scoring four of their five runs in the second and third innings, and pithcer Nolan Stepka retired the last six men he faced in a row as the Raiders held off the Packers for a 5-2 win.
Austin advanced a runner to third base with two outs in both the first and second innings, but Stepka was able to induce a grounder to third and a caught-looking strike three to get out of both jams, while Northfield took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when leadoff hitter Tate Journell singled, then was caught off first after a pickoff throw from Austin pitcher Peyton Ransom but wound up going to second when the throw to second base sailed into left-centerfield. Journell then went to third when shortstop Spencer Mellgren grounded out to Ransom for the first out, and he then scored when Stepka grounded out to third for the second out.
Northfield increased their lead to 3-0 in the second when, with one out, a single and a walk put runners on first and second, and then with two out, No. 9 hitter Jake Balvin blooped a single into shallow left field down the line to score a run, and Journell followed with another RBI single. The Packers scored their first run in the top of the third when, with one out, leadoff hitter Kody Blom walked, stole second and scored on a RBI single from designated hitter R.J. Wiesler. Wiesler advanced to second on a throwing error by Raiders right fielder Jake Balvin, went to third on a groundout to second base, but he was stranded there as Stepka induced a popout to second base to end the inning.
Northfield answered back in the bottom half of the inning when Stepka and cleanup hitter Tyler Hughes both singled. With one out, second baseman Coledon Rataj belted a RBI double and first baseman Adam Wiese lofted a sacrfice fly to deep center to make the score 5-1. The Packers tallied their other run in the top of the sixth when first baseman Nick Robertson belted a triple to right center and scored in the next at-bat when cleanup hitter Dakota Retterath singled, but he would be Austin’s last baserunner as Stepka was able to retire the next six men in a row to earn the win on the mound, as he gave up the two Packer runs, one earned, and six hits in seven innings of work, striking out three, walking one and hitting one batter.
Offensively for Austin, Kody Blom had two of the Packers’ six hits in three official trips to the plate, plus a walk and a run scored, R.J. Wiesler went 1 for 2 with his RBI single in the third inning, Nick Robertson was 1 for 3 with his triple in the sixth and a run scored, Dakota Retterath was 1 for 3 with a RBI single, plus he threw out two Northfield baserunners from behind the plate and first baseman Jared Lillemon was 1 for 3. Peyton Ransom on the mound for the Packers pitched six innings and gave up the five Raider runs, four earned, on nine hits, striking out four, walking two and hitting one batter.
With the loss, Austin’s season unfortunately comes to an end with a record of 4-18. With the win, Northfield will now play No. 4 seed Stewartville, who fell to top-seeded Byron 9-1 Tuesday. The other first-round elimination bracket game went to sixth-seeded Faribault, as the Falcons downed No. 7 seed Kasson-Mantorville 3-1. The Falcons will be back in action Thursday at Red Wing versus the No. 2 seeded Wingers, who fell to third-seeded Winona 7-1. After Thursday, the rest of the Section 1AAA tournament shifts to Marcusen Park in Austin on Saturday as Byron will play Winona at 11:00 a.m., followed by the two winners from Thursday at 1:30 p.m. The winner of that game will then play the loser of the Byron/Winona game at 4:00 p.m., and the winner of that game will advance back into the winners bracket to play the lone unbeaten team in the tournament Wednesday, June 8th at 5:00 p.m., with another game to follow if necessary.