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Sleepy Eye battles back to top St. James in VFW playoffs

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau Sleepy Eye VFW’s Spencer Osmonson makes a diving catch in left field during Sleepy Eye’s playoff game with St. James at Johnson Park on Friday.

NEW ULM — For the second day in a row, Sleepy Eye VFW mounted a comeback to move on in the winner’s bracket of the Second District VFW Baseball Tournament.

A six-run fifth inning on Friday was more than enough for Sleepy Eye to overcome a three-run deficit and down St. James 9-5 at Johnson Park.

Sleepy Eye came back from a 3-1 deficit on Thursday against Lake Crystal.

After St. James put together a five-run fourth inning on four hits and two errors to lead 5-2, Sleepy Eye had a rebuttal in the fifth inning.

The bottom of that six-run fifth started on a Nolan Domeier flare to right field for a base hit before Jonny Petermann reached on a throwing error from the shortstop. Austin Uecker then singled in Domeier to cut Sleepy Eye’s deficit to 5-3 before a delayed double steal sent Uecker to second and Petermann home for a 5-4 score.

Spencer Osmonson, who had a diving catch in left field in the top of the first inning and a two-run single to put Sleepy Eye up 2-0 in the bottom of the first, singled in the tying run in the fifth. He ended the day going 3 for 4 with three RBIs to lead the Sleepy Eye bats.

Arian Saenz, who had two doubles in the game, then walked after Osmonson reached. Caden Evers dropped down a bunt that led to a throwing error to first and two more Sleepy Eye runs. A one-out sac fly by Mark Anderson scored Evers and Sleepy Eye led 8-5 after five innings.

Sleepy Eye scored its final run in the sixth inning on an RBI double from Saenz that scored Petermann, who reached on an error to lead off the inning.

“That inning was big because we knew were going to respond,” Sleepy Eye head coach Brandon Streich said. “We had that No. 9 hitter coming up at the top of the order, and we knew were going to have a chance. We took advantage of every extra out they gave us. Good teams take advantage of extra opportunities and that’s what we did.”

Jesus Moriel took the loss in 3 1/3 innings of relief of starter Connor Jones for St. James. Moriel gave up two earned runs, while Jones allowed one earned run.

Brandon Schmitz got the complete-game win for Sleepy Eye, giving up seven hits and striking out four. His only rough inning was the fourth, when St. James got four hits off of him to help score five runs.

Despite that shaky inning, Schmitz shook it off and gave up just one hit after that.

“He was throwing strikes, and defensively, a lot of flukey things happened,” Streich said of Schmitz in the fourth inning. “I had confidence in him, he’s pitched well for us all year, and you saw that with how he rebounded. I think us letting him go back out there really kind of gave him the confidence he needed, and he pitched well the rest of the way.”

Sleepy Eye will now meet Chaska, who defeated Mankato East 21-1 in five innings on Friday, in a semifinals game at 12 p.m. on Saturday at Johnson Park. The winner moves on to Sunday, while the loser plays again at 5 p.m. on Saturday in an elimination game at Johnson Park.

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