By Jake Calhoun
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - Carter Erickson could have blown a save opportunity after loading the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
He could have, but he didn't.
After falling behind 3-0 in the count against Minnesota Valley Lutheran's Jacob Mielke, Erickson worked his way back to a full count before catching the batter swinging to secure Springfield's 5-2 Tomahawk Conference victory on Monday at Johnson Park.
"I told him, 'Do what you do best' and that's finish the game," said Springfield coach Bob Fink when asked what he said to Erickson after loading the bases. "Carter is one cool customer when the game's on the line and I wasn't concerned at all."
Erickson got the save for the Tigers (6-0, 6-0 Tomahawk) after striking out five batters and giving up two walks on one hit in three innings of work.
MVL freshman Nick Fischer made things difficult for Springfield in the opening innings, mixing up speeds and hitting the strike zone despite giving up two runs in the first and one run in the third.
"I thought [Fischer] had us out in front swinging at a lot of bad pitches," Fink said. "The four-day layoff hurt us a little bit. We can usually hit better than that and I expect to see that tomorrow when we play again."
After allowing the Tigers to take a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning, Chad Lease led the Chargers (1-3, 1-3) with a tricky bunt single before eventually making his way to third base.
Lease was driven in by a deep blast to the right-field fence by sophomore Noah Edwards, who rounded the bases safely before the incoming throw to third for a triple.
"Each game, we're getting more and more aggressive at the plate," said MVL coach Jeff Schoenherr. "I think it's feeding all the way through the lineup too. The first game, I think we had about five strikeouts looking and we talked about that in practice, we said that wasn't going to happen again. So we're going up there aggressive at the plate."
Despite scoring another run in the fourth inning to cut the lead to 3-2, the Chargers allowed a two-run top of the fifth where Fischer walked Tim Krueger with the bases loaded to drive in Nick Runck before Erickson hit a sac fly to center field to drive in Cooper Scheffler.
Fischer gave up five runs - three earned - on three hits with five walks and five strikeouts in five innings pitched for the loss.
Dylan Wersal got the victory for the Tigers, having given up two runs on three hits in four innings of work.
"When you play a quality team like Springfield, it's all those little things," Schoenherr said. "They do an excellent job of base-running. I think we hit just as well as they did, but they take advantage of every walk that you give them or every little error."
Springfield defeated MVL 9-0 in the season opener for both teams.
Both teams return to action on Tuesday. MVL will play Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop at 5 p.m. at Fairfax, while Springfield will host Waseca in a nonconference game at 5:30 p.m.
Springfield 201 020 0 - 5 4 1
MVL 001 100 0 - 2 4 2
Wersal, Erickson (5) and Richert; Fischer, Westphal (6) and Parker.
W - Wersal (S) 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3.50 ERA
L - Fischer (M) 5 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 4.20 ERA
Sv - Erickson (S) 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 0.00 ERA
Leading hitters - Springfield: Runck 2-3 1 R 1 K, Erickson 1-3 3 RBI, Scheffler 1-3 2 R 1 BB, Baier 0-1 2 R 3 BB; MVL: Edwards 1-3 3B 1 RBI 1 BB, Parker 1-3 1 R 1 K, Lease 1-3 1 R, Schmidt 1-2 1 K.