SLEEPY EYE - In eight of the nine innings played between New Ulm Blue and Mankato National on Thursday in the Substate 2 tournament, the teams were dead-even.
But a five-run third inning by No. 2-seeded National was enough to lift it to a 9-4 win in Sleepy Eye.
Devin Ries got the win for Mankato National (11-13). He went 7 2/3 ininngs and allowed all four Blue runs while striking out two and eight hits.
Connor Forbrook was saddled with the loss for New Ulm Blue (9-18). Forbrook went three innings and permitted six runs on eight hits.
Ryan Theissen had four hits for National and Steve Nessler had three.
Jarin Spence provided the bulk of the offense for Blue with three hits. Brandon Beranek and Nick Vogel each added two hits with Alex Stark driving in two runs.
New Ulm Blue now will play an elimination game at 10 a.m. Friday in Stark against -.
For New Ulm Blue coach Mike Munce, the loss was easily explained.
"One bad inning," said Munce, who saw his team lose twice to National in the regular season twice by one run. "We gave them the five runs, we had all of the momentum going into that inning. But momentum shifted."
New Ulm Blue had taken a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the third. In the top of the first, Alex Stark had singled and eventually came around to score on a Jarin Spence single.
National tied the game in the bottom of the inning but Blue responded with two runs in the top of the second.
Vogel and Andrew Stewart each singled to start the inning and Blue loaded the bases when Alex Guggisberg's bunt was misplayed for an error that loaded the bases.
Evan Atzenhoefer's groundout scored Vogel before a fielder's choice notched Blue's second run of the inning.
But that was the last time Blue was able to push a run across until it tallied its final run of the game in the top of the eighth.
Josh Cook started National's five-run outburst with a single. Cook went to third on a line drive off the glove of Forbrook. A wild pitch scored Cook before Forbrook walked Cooper Wollenzein, which was before Nessler and Theissen singled to load the bases.
Forbrook hit Ben Kleist to force in a run. A Josh Athey base hit scored Nessler with Theissen racing home on a Kevin Marzoff double for a 5-3 Mankato lead. Jayme Munsterman's RBI single upped the National's lead to 6-3.
"Our heads went down after that inning," Munce said. "We tried to get their heads back up but the kids took that five-run inning really hard.
"They had a couple of lucky hits in there and things just snowballed."
The five-run inning ended Forbrook's day. Stewart took over and held National to three runs and eight hits the rest of the way, but the damage had already been done.
"We are a team that cannot come back from a four or five-run deficit," Munce said. "Our team is not built for it."
National and Blue exchanged runs with Blue scoring a run in the eighth on on a hit batsman and three walks.
National scored two runs in the eighth on a two-run double from Wollenzein.
"I am proud of the team," Munce said. "They played eight solid innings. We'll come back and battle again."