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VFW Baseball: Willmar on ropes but crushes district's top seed to stay in tourney

MORRIS -- Willmar I was edged in extra innings by Alexandria 16s 3-2 before staying alive in the District 5 VFW Baseball playoffs by drubbing top-seeded Morris 12-4 in the loser's bracket final Sunday.

The early evening win gives Willmar a rematch with Alexandria with the district title on the line. Willmar would need to win twice today -- the first game starts at 6 p.m. in Morris -- to advance to the state tournament.

The day started with Alexandria scoring twice in the bottom half of the first to take a quick lead. Willmar then got an RBI single from Austin Smith in the second and a sacrifice fly from Hagen in the third to tie the game at 2-2.

But Parker Bowden blanked Willmar for the next five innings before scoring the winning run on an infield single with a two outs in the eighth to lift Alexandria into the championship game.

Adam Nibaur was just as tough on the hill as the Willmar starter held Alexandria scoreless from the second to seventh innings, getting help along the way from a triple play.

With runners on first and second in the fifth, Nibaur dropped a bunt coming off the mound, but he still threw out the batter at first. First baseman Tony McCleary then fired the ball to Smith at second to tag out another runner and Smith threw a strike to Hagen at third who then tagged out another runner to end the inning.

Willmar kept its season alive later in the day after pounding out 11 hits against the host team. Tyler Stegeman collected three hits, including a bases-clearing triple in the seventh that turned into a four-run play after the relay throw sailed over the catcher's head.

Hagen shook off issuing four walks by giving up just five hits and striking out two to earn the complete-game win.

Nibaur also drove in three runs, including a two-run single in the first.

Loser's Bracket Final

Willmar I 12, Morris 4

Willmar I 300 210 5 -- 12 11 3

Morris 001 020 1 -- 4 5 3

HITTING - Willmar I: Tyler Stegeman 3-for-4, 3b, 4 rbi; Adam Nibaur 2-for-4, 3 rbi; Cole Hagen 1-for-4; Carter Sack 1-for-4, 2 rbi; Trey Tollefson 2-for-2, rbi; Zach Horman 1-for-2; Austin Smith 1-for-3, rbi ... Morris: Corey Storck 3-for-4, 2 2b's, rbi

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Willmar I: Hagen (W) 7-5-4-4-4-2 ... Morris: Noah Grove (L) 0-0-3-3-2-0, Riley Diesterfeld 3-4-2-2-2-1, Bryce Jergenson 4-7-7-7-3-2

Winner's Bracket Final

Alexandria 16s 3, Willmar I 2

Willmar I 011 000 00 -- 2 9 3

Alexandria 16s 200 000 01 -- 3 5 3

HITTING - Willmar I: Tyler Stegeman 1-for-4; Evan VanDenEinde 1-for-3; Tony McCleary 2-for-4, 2b; Cole Hagen 1-for-3, rbi; Carter Sack 1-for-3; Trey Tollefson 1-for-3; Austin Smith 2-for-3, rbi ... Alexandria 16s: Parker Bowden 2-for-3; Toby Helgeson 1-for-4, rbi

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Willmar I: Adam Nibaur (L) 7.2-5-3-3-0-4 ... Alexandria 16s: Bowden (W) 8-9-2-2-1-4