Stranded runners hurt Sleepy Eye

Staff photo by Jeremy Behnke Sleepy Eye catcher Carson Domeier tags out Chaska runner Max Born at the plate during Thursday’s District 2 VFW baseball game at Johnson Park.

NEW ULM — In the end, Sleepy Eye VFW had plenty of chances to win its first game of the Second District playoffs against Chaska.

However, Sleepy Eye was unable to come up with the big hit as it stranded 13 runners in the game. Chaska advanced with a 5-4 win and Sleepy Eye drops to the elimination bracket.

Because Fairmont dropped out of the tournament after its loss to Mankato in the first game, Sleepy Eye will now play at 6 p.m. at Johnson Park in the elimination bracket against the loser of Game 8. Game 8 will feature Mapleton and New Ulm VFW Gold.

Down 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Sleepy Eye scored a run to get to within one run. But with the bases loaded, Jacob Meyer struck out to end the threat.

“I kind of thought about it, it’s nice that we’re getting those opportunities, but we have to take advantage of them or else they’re just wasted opportunities,” Sleepy Eye coach Brandon Streich said. “That’s kind of been our achille’s heal all year is taking advantage of those opportunities. We’re always one big hit away.”

Both teams stranded plenty of runners early. Chaska stranded five runners in the first three innings and failed to score.

Sleepy Eye stranded six in the first three innings, including two in the second and three in the third to keep it scoreless.

Chaska scored twice off Sleepy Eye starter Nick Labat in the fourth, but Sleepy Eye took the lead in the bottom of the fifth when it scored three runs.

Labat took the loss for Sleepy Eye. He went the distance and allowed five hits and he struck out five.

Chaska re-took the lead in the sixth, scoring two runs on an error at second base.

The loss sends Sleepy Eye to the elimination bracket, but the team caught a break. It was originally scheduled to play Fairmont, but because Fairmont dropped out, Sleepy Eye advances and that could be an advantage.

“I think that’s huge,” Streich said. “Not only do we get to rest a pitcher, but everybody else gets rest and gets to reset the mind a little bit. That was really important for us.”