NEW ULM - With help from the bat of Brandon Helget and the arm of Jordan Anderson, No. 3-seeded Sleepy Eye Legion Post 7 was able to defeat No. 6 seed Mankato American 2-1 in the first round of the Substate District 2 playoffs at Johnson Park in New Ulm.
Sleepy Eye got on the board right away in the bottom of the first inning. With two outs, the left-handed batter Helget ripped a double to deep right field that bounced to the fence. John Mangen followed with a single to left field to pick up the RBI.
Twice in the top of the second, Mankato got baserunners on first and third. The first time, Anderson was able to pick off Andrew Sweere at first. After Pat Rohlfing drew a walk, American again had runners on the corners. This time they attempted a double steal. Rohlfing reached second safely, but Sean Mathiowetz riffled it home, and Mangen applied the tag to prevent the run. Anderson finished off the inning with one strikeout.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Mankato American base runner Bradley Kunz collides with Sleepy Eye catcher John Mangen during Sleepy Eye’s win in the first round of the American Legion playoffs Thursday at Johnson Park in New Ulm. Kunz was safe, scoring Mankato’s only run of the game.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
"Jordan did a great job for us on the mound. He picked off several runners - he's pretty good at picking guys off," said Sleepy Eye coach Bruce Woitas. "He worked himself out of some jams early on when they had a couple baserunners. But I thought overall defensively we played pretty solid, and Jordan pitched really well for us today."
Mankato pitcher Sean Allan did his part in preventing Sleepy Eye batters from reaching base. Allan threw six consecutive scoreless innings - four of them hitless.
Allan suffered the loss, pitching all eight innings and surrendering two runs, one earned, on six hits. He had two strikeouts and two walks.
Anderson kept Mankato off the board for the first six innings, which included two double plays from the Sleepy Eye defense.
Post 7 ran into trouble in the seventh inning when Brad Kunz singled and stole second base. Rohlfing hit a single to right fielder David Suprenant, and Kunz rounded third and went for home. Suprenant gunned it home to Mangen, who was blocking the plate.
Kunz collided with Mangen right as the ball was getting there, and Mangen was unable to hang on to the ball.
Anderson struck out the next batter and the inning ended with a 1-1 tie.
Allan retired all three batters in the bottom of the seventh, and the first two in the eighth. Helget stepped up big with two outs, blasting a hit between the left and center fielders. Helget used his speed to beat a well-thrown ball to third base.
"[Helget's] a great hitter - he really came up big today," Woitas said. "He's just a good hitter. He's been that way, and he just did a nice job at the plate."
Helget finished 3-for-3 with a walk, single, double and triple at the plate.
Late in the game, Allan threw a wild pitch outside in the dirt that catcher Rohlfing could not handle. Helget's triple paid off as he reached home safely to give Post 7 a 2-1 lead.
Anderson took it from there, with a one-two-three final inning. He got the complete game win with one earned run on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts.
"He's obviously been our best pitcher throughout the season here, and you've got to put your best guy out there in game one," Woitas said.
Sleepy Eye plays No. 2-seeded Worthington in the second round at 11 a.m. on Friday at Johnson Park.