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Mankato Royals earn trip to state with wins over Sleepy Eye VFW

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau Mankato Royals’ Evan Wiebers runs into a tag at second by Sleepy Eye’s Austin Uecker during the first game of the Second District VFW baseball finals at Johnson Park in New Ulm on Sunday.

NEW ULM — Needing a pair of wins over Sleepy Eye on Sunday at Johnson Park to earn a VFW state tournament berth, the Mankato Royals took advantage of every opportunity they had on their way to a pair of wins.

Mankato won 8-3 in the first game of the Second District VFW baseball finals, which forced a second game a half hour later due to it being Sleepy Eye’s first loss in the tournament. In that second game, Mankato held off Sleepy Eye 2-1 to advance to the state tournament.

“First game was very uncharacteristic,” Sleepy Eye head coach Brandon Streich said. “We kind of came out, not necessarily flat, but we just didn’t play our game. I was a little worried going into the second game, but the second game we kind of rebounded, played well, just not well enough.”

In Game 1, the Royals took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning before Sleepy Eye answered in the bottom of the second with a bases-clearing double by Jonny Petermann to lead 3-1. Unfortunately for Sleepy Eye, that was the last time it scored in the game as Mankato put up five more runs in the fourth inning on three hits and two errors and two more runs in the seventh on an error and a sac fly. Sleepy Eye had a chance to score in the bottom of the seventh with the bases full, but a strikeout ended the game.

Arian Saenz took the loss in Game 1 for Sleepy Eye in six innings, giving up six hits and two walks while striking out five. Kaleb Butenhoff pitched the seventh inning for Sleepy Eye.

Wilson Magers earned the complete-game win for the Royals, striking out eight and giving up three hits.

Next to Petermann’s double, Saenz and Spencer Osmonson had Sleepy Eye’s other two hits in the game. Sleepy Eye committed five errors in the loss.

In Game 2, Sleepy Eye collected seven hits, cleaned things up in the field and didn’t allow an error, but they were caught stealing or picked off four times.

Sleepy Eye’s Mark Anderson took the loss in seven innings, giving up two hits and six walks while striking out three.

Kaylor Chamberlain got the win for Mankato in Game 2, pitching all seven innings and striking out three.

Mankato scored a run in the top of the first on a bases-loaded walk by Derek Stierlen that scored Magers. The Royals added their second run in the second on a wild pitch.

Sleepy Eye got a run back in the bottom of the second on a delayed double steal that scored courtesy runner Winston Nienhaus from third. Nienhaus ran for catcher Caden Evers, who singled to lead off the inning.

Evers led Sleepy Eye in Game 2 with two hits.

Despite the tough end of the season, Streich said that there’s a lot to look forward to for Sleepy Eye baseball.

“I look towards the future and I’m very positive about it,” Streich said. “Sleepy Eye baseball as a whole, with both Sleepy Eye Public and St. Mary’s, has a very bright future. Then you combine the two schools and you’ve got a lot of firepower and a lot of guys returning with some key experience. I think they have a lot to look forward to.”

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