NEW?ULM?- The brief rain that arrived at the bottom of the ninth inning could have been a bad omen for Sleepy Eye Post 7 legion baseball with its one-run lead in jeopardy.
With two on base and nobody out, Mitch Neid made sure it wasn't as he got Sleepy Eye out of the jam to close the 3-2 win against No. 2-seeded Worthington in the second round of the Substate No. 2 Legion Baseball playoffs on Friday at Johnson Park in New Ulm.
As the rain began to fall in the bottom of the ninth, Neid walked Deron Soderholm before allowing a single to shallow-left field by Blake Rogers to put two on with nobody out and Sleepy Eye clinging to a 3-2 lead.
Worthington's clean-up batter Lucas Henning stepped up to the plate with a walk-off scenario possibly about to unfold. Henning chopped away at two pitches -?fouling them both - in lieu of advancing the runners with a sacrifice bunt.
On the third pitch, Neid struck Henning out, causing Worthington's decision to not bunt Henning to backfire.
"I think that was really big,"?Neid said. "He's a good hitter and if we didn't get that out, they probably would have scored a run for sure.?Who knows what would have happened in the game?"
Tyler Hatterman grounded out to first to advance the runners to second and third base with two outs.
On the first pitch of the next at-bat, Ryan Lee flew out to center field with Mike Hirsch making a hustled catch to end the game, advancing Sleepy Eye to the next round.
Neid got the save, having replaced starter Hirsch in the seventh inning with no outs.
"Mitch Neid came in and did a great job for us,"?said Sleepy Eye coach Bruce Woitas. "That's a tough spot to come in. He was able to get two pop-ups right away. They got another run, but he was able to get the last guy."
Hirsch got the win for Post 7, allowing four hits and two earned runs in six innings pitched before Neid's entrance on the mound.
Worthington pulled to within one run after plating two in the seventh, making Neid's job difficult.
"There was a lot - bases loaded, no outs,"?Neid said when asked of the pressure he felt. "But I just came in and threw strikes and got some big outs."
Overall, Sleepy Eye hit four Worthington batters with Hirsch accounting for three of them.
Soderholm got the loss for Worthington despite notching a game-high six strikeouts with three unearned runs in the complete-game effort.
In the third inning, a dropped strikeout by Rogers saw Brady Hansen reach base in the third inning. Hansen was eventually batted in by Sean Mathiowetz for the first run of the game. On that play, Henning, the left-handed third baseman, overthrew the first baseman for Worthington's only error of the game.
Jordan Anderson came home next for Sleepy Eye, crossing home plate right before Mathiowetz thanks to Brandon Helget's two-RBI single to put Sleepy Eye ahead 3-0.
Worthington's two runs in the seventh counted as Hirsch's since they reached base while he was on the mound. Soderholm drove in Alex Purdy for the first, while Tyler Hatterman drove in Logan?Rogers after getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and a 1-2 count.
Despite playing seven-inning games throughout the regular season, the playoffs contain nine-inning games. While Woitas said there isn't that much of a difference between the two, he said the difference does have some effect.
"Probably the only part that it affects you a little bit is your pitching,"?Woitas said. "Most times, your starters [when] they do a complete game, they're only going to throw seven innings. Here, you're forced to play nine.
"But I think that's where you need your guys to step in. Mitch has been a nice reliever for us all year and that kind of fits his spot, fits his role and he did a nice job coming in for us."
Sleepy Eye will play New Ulm Gold in the winner's bracket at 1 p.m. Saturday at Johnson Park.
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