State Baseball: Late Pierz runs doom NLS
ST. CLOUD - New London-Spicer's quest for a Class AA state championship in their first visit to the tournament ended Thursday night with a 6-2 loss to No. 3 Pierz at Dick Putz Field.
The Wildcats will now advance to the consolation bracket where they will take on Belle Plaine at 2:30 p.m., today in St. Cloud,
The final Class AA game of the day was expected to be a pitchers' duel and neither team disappointed.
NLS starter Will Roguske was in control early, allowing just one hit in the first three innings.
Pierz' Preston Rocheleau was tagged for a run in the third inning thanks to some Wildcat small ball and Wyatt White belted one off the scoreboard in left in the fourth inning to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
But the Pierz right-hander was strong otherwise. Rocheleau went on to earn the win with five hits allowed and six strikeouts in 6-1/3 innings of work.
The Wildcats' two earned runs off Rocheleau doubled the total given up by the junior in 56 innings all season. He entered the game with a 0.12 ERA.
"I was extremely pleased with the way we started today," NLS head coach Mike Thompson said. "I don't think we could have drawn it up much better. I'm not sure anyone outside of our dugout expected us to win or even give them a good game, but we expected to win."
Pierz got one back in the fourth inning with a sacrifice fly by Matt Kummet and took the lead in the fifth thanks to some strong hitting and baserunning by Pierz star Matt Tautges.
The Wildcats threatened in their own half of the fifth inning with bases loaded and one out but Rocheleau battled out of the jam with a strikeout and an easy pop fly to centerfield.
Pierz kept the offensive momentum going in the sixth inning with three more runs.
"Will threw an excellent first four innings," Thompson said. "I think we could have done a better job throwing first-pitch curveballs there the second time through the order because they barrelled up his fastballs later on. But he pitched well. I never thought of taking him out. Will has been our guy all year. He deserved the opportunity to be on this stage."
Ultimately it was the hit disparity (nine hits for Pierz, five for NLS) that proved to be one of the biggest deciding factors.
"(Rocheleau) filled the strike zone fast," NLS senior right fielder John Perkins said. "He was a good pitcher. Kudos to them, they gave us a good game and they were fun to play."
White was one of the few to figure Rocheleau out. He went 2-for-4 including the home run.
"I just saw first pitch curveball and went with it," White said of his first home run of the season. "I was waiting on it a bit. It was weird, for that to be my first. I can't explain it, I approached it the same as every other atbat. To happen on this stage was pretty special."
The Wildcats now need to ready themselves for a tough opponent in their consolation match against Belle Plaine. The Tigers let a late lead disappear following some defensive errors in the game against the Marshall School directly before New London-Spicer's. Though the consolation bracket isn't where he expected his team to be, Thompson said he expects to enter the game against the No. 2 seed with plenty of confidence.
"We're going to flush this game and start fresh tomorrow," Thompson said. "We've been good all year at resetting and re-adjusting our goals so we'll be ready to go. We want to come back with some hardware and finish the season with 20 wins. I expect us to come out and play well."
Pierz 6, NLS 2
NLS 001 100 0-2 5 1
Pierz 000 123 x-6 9 1
Hitting - New London-Spicer: John Perkins 1-3 rbi, Will Roguske 1-4, Wyatt White 2-4 hr rbi r, Jake Schmidt 1-2 r ... Pierz: Matt Tautges 1-3 rbi r, Lane Girtz 2-3 3b rbi r, Brandon Dickmann 2-3 rbi-2 r
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - New London-Spicer: Will Roguske (L) 6-9-6-5-1-4 ... Pierz: Preston Rocheleau (W) 6.1-5-2-2-5-6, Matt Kummet 0.2-0-0-0-0-2