WILLMAR - A nip-and-tuck game turned Willmar's way in the sixth inning and the Cardinals held on to defeat Delano 6-4 in a Section 6AAA winners bracket semifinals game on Thursday at Bill Taunton Stadium.
In the sixth, with the game tied 3-3, Jon Broman delivered the go-ahead run with a single, and Andy Schultz followed with a two-run single to put Willmar up three.
An error led to an unearned Delano run in the top of the seventh, but winning pitcher Bryan Weidemann got the Cardinals out of the inning and on to the winners bracket final against Waconia at 5 p.m. Saturday in Waconia.
Willmar trailed 3-2 in the fifth but Caleb Ditmarson tied the game with a run-scoring single.
"We had guys on (earlier in the game), we just couldn't get hits with guys on base," said Willmar head coach Tom DeBoer. "It came together at the end. All season, it seems like it's in the fifth or sixth innings that our bats come together."
In the sixth, Isaiah Reimersma led off with a single to center but pinch runner Ashton Gregory was erased at second on a Cardinal sacrifice bunt attempt. Jayden Dierenfeld re-entered to run and advanced to second on Caleb Owens' single.
Broman singled to center to bring home Dierenfeld with the go-ahead run, and Schultz hit a two-out single to left to plate Owens and Broman. The inning ended when Schultz was thrown out at home trying to score on a Drey Dirksen single.
The inning took shape once Willmar was able to put runners on against Delano reliever and losing pitcher Jackson Royer, Schultz said.
"It seemed like he got a little flustered with guys on base," Schultz said. "He started throwing a lot of balls and missing with his pitches."
Weidemann got the first Delano hitters out in the seventh and weathered the unearned run to get a game-ending groundout to second. Weidemann allowed just two earned runs, didn't walk any Tigers and struck out seven.
Weidemann is one of three Cardinals starters with sub-2.00 earned-run averages and not being relegated to the losers bracket early in the playoff makes it easier to manage pitching, DeBoer said.
"It lets you play a little more comfortable," DeBoer said, "knowing you don't have to play three games—sometimes four—to get through (the bracket)."
Willmar 6, Delano 4
Delano 110 100 1-4 8 1
Willmar 002 013 x-6 9 3
Hitting - Delano: Jack Paulson 3-4 sb r-2, Evan Sivets 3-4 rbi ... Willmar: Caleb Owens 1-2 r, Jon Broman 1-2 rbi r, Jack Baumgart 1-3 r, Andy Schultz 1-1 rbi-2 r, Drey Dirksen 2-4 3b rbi, Caleb Ditmarson 1-3 rbi-2, Isaiah Riemersma 2-3, Ashton Gregory 0-0 r, Jayden Dierenfeld 0-2 r
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Delano: Cade Lommel 4.1-3-3-3-4-8, Jackson Royer (L) 1.2-6-3-3-0-1 ... Willmar: Bryan Weidemann (W) 7-8-4-2-0-7