NEW ULM Sleepy Eye failed to advance to the playoff bracket in the Junior Upper Midwest Classic by dropping two games on Saturday. After winning the first two games, an early 1-0 loss to Maple Grove paired with a 9-4 defeat against Hutchinson left Sleepy Eye eliminated from the tournament.
Early mistakes proved costly for Sleepy Eye. Hutchinson's Jake Arlt scored in the top of the first off of a throwing error by shortstop Brandon Helget.
Sleepy Eye starting pitcher, Austin Fischer, struggled with control from the beginning. Two singles and a wild pitch allowed Marcus Hahn to drive in a run. Another wild pitch allowed Cory Rosales to score Hutchinson's third run of the game.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Maple Grove's Kyle Anderson (11) slides in to second as Sleepy Eye's Jake Meilke makes a throw to first for a double play during Junior Upper Midwest Classic action Saturday Morning at Mueller Park in New Ulm. For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
Fischer got pulled after just one and two-thirds innings. He suffered the loss for Sleepy Eye, walking four batters and allowing four hits. He struck out two batters and gave up three runs, but only one was earned.
"In a game like this where we have to win to be in on Sunday, everyone's got to have a short leash," Manager Dusty Mangen said. "Austin was having a little trouble locating the zone right away, so you can't hesitate in games like this."
Alex Sellner came in with the bases loaded, but got Jayden Fleck to fly out to center field to end the inning.
"I thought Alex came in and did a good job," Mangen said. "He's a guy who's going to get fly ball outs, and that's what he got today. A couple of them found gaps, but for the most part I thought he did a good job."
Sleepy Eye strung together some hits with two outs in the bottom of the second. With two runners on, Matt Berkner drove in Dylan Klein with a single, cutting the lead to 3-1.
Sellner ran into trouble in the third. Fleck hit a two RBI triple. Jayden Juergenson came up next and drove in Fleck with a double to make it 6-1.
Hutchinson had two great pitching performances. Hahn started the game and got the win. He went three innings and allowed one run on five hits. Juergenson pitched the final four innings, allowing just one hit and three unearned runs.
Those three runs came in the bottom of the sixth, with Sleepy Eye down 7-1. An error by the third baseman allowed Sellner to reach the base. Klein came up with two outs and hit a triple to produce two runs. Klein would score with help from another Hutchinson error to make it a 7-4 ball game.
"They gave us a couple breaks where we put something together, but the rally kind of died before it could ever really get started," Mangen said.
Sleepy Eye used Elliot Braun to pitch the final inning. Center fielder Berkner let a ball slip past him, allowing two unearned runs on what should have been a Hahn single.
"Our defense kind of let us down today," Mangen said. "We had played great defense up to this point... but we weren't there for this one."
The inning ended on a double play when right fielder Klein made a running catch and gunned down the base-runner who had taken too much of a lead from second.
Sleepy Eye was unable to put any runs on the board in the bottom of the inning, and the game ended with a score of 9-4.
First game of the day for Sleepy Eye was a defensive battle that resulted in a 1-0 loss to Maple Grove. Klein got the loss, despite allowing only one run on six hits in a complete game.
Brandon Helget tried to produce some offense, going 2 for 3 with a triple, but Sleepy Eye was unable to turn that into runs. Jon Kopacek, Sellner, and Berkner were the only other Sleepy Eye batters to get a hit.
The next Sleepy Eye VFW game will be July 2 at 7 p.m. against Arlington in Sleepy Eye.