NEW ULM - Earlier in the season, New Ulm Legion Gold's Tim Kehren had been suffering through a hitting slump in games in the Gopher Classic and then contests against Mankato and Fairmont.
But Kehren took some extra batting practice and it paid off big Friday.
Kehren went 2-for-4 with a triple and a two-run home run as New Ulm Gold improved to
22-7 on the year with a 5-2 win against Mankato National in the winner's bracket of Substate No. 2 on Friday at Johnson Park.
Tanner Kluis improved his season mark to
3-0 on the mound while going the distance. He scattered four hits and struck out five.
Ian Schwickert took the loss for National
(13-15). He was tagged with all five runs in his 7 1/3 innings of work.
Kehren and Kluis each had two hits for Gold and each drove in two runs.
Devin Ries had two hits for Mankato. Both of Mankato's runs came in the top of the fifth and were unearned.
"I thought that the key in this game came in the bottom of the fifth inning, " said New Ulm coach Bob Weier. "Mankato had scored two runs to cut our lead to 3-2. But we came right back in the bottom of the inning and Tim Kehren delivered the big two-run blast. I think that that was the key in the game. He had a batting practice the other day that really was impressive and he has carried that on."
Kehren is now 5-for-9 in the tournament.
Gold had assumed a 3-0 lead going into the top of the fifth inning.
New Ulm plated two runs in the bottom of the first inning after Grant Kannegiesser had reached on an error and Chase Meyer walked.
Kluis laced a double to left field that brought in both Kannegiesser and Meyer and ended an 0-for-11 drought that Gold had in its opening game with runners in scoring position.
"We got some clutch hits and that is one of the big keys that you need to have to win ballgames," Weier said. "Especially at this time of the year."
In the third, Kehren led off the inning with a triple to right field and scored one batter later when Brach Kraus reached on a throwing error.
National plated its two runs on both of New Ulm's errors in the game
But in the home half of the fifth, Jordan Guggisberg coaxed a one-out walk to set the stage for the left-handed hitting Kehren, who turned a 1-1 Schwickert offering into a laser home run over the fence in right field.
That was more than enough support for Kluis, who set down the final 13 Mankato batters in a row.
"I thought that he pitched well," Weier said. "He struggled that inning when he gave up the two runs but he pitched well."
Weier was also happy with the play of Jordan Guggisberg, who replaced an injured Judd Davis at shortstop. Davis wil be lost from between 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury suffered in Thursday night's win.
"He came up with some nice plays for us (five assists and no errors) and he has played there before," Weier said.
New Ulm Gold will now play Sleepy Eye in a winner's bracket game Saturday at 1 p.m. at Johnson Park. Sleepy Eye has beaten Gold in both of their regular season meetings this season.
"They are a good ballclub and I hope that we can hang with them," Weier said.