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Atwater tops Rails in playoff opener

ATWATER -- In a dual of right versus left, Michael Malvin of the Atwater Chuckers prevailed 3-1 over the Willmar Rails on a steamy Wednesday evening on the Chuckers' home field.

ATWATER -- In a dual of right versus left, Michael Malvin of the Atwater Chuckers prevailed 3-1 over the Willmar Rails on a steamy Wednesday evening on the Chuckers' home field.

The right hander gave up a first-inning run but blanked the visitors the rest of the way as the Cornbelt South opened its six-team, double-elimination playoff with three games last night.

Top seed Raymond and Bird Island also were winners.

Rails' southpaw Mark Krogstad was the losing pitcher despite giving up only three hits and fanning 16 Chuckers. A streak of wildness in the fifth inning led to a pair of Atwater runs breaking a 1-1 tie that had existed since the first inning.

At one point, Krogstad, who will be a senior at Augustana where he has played baseball for three seasons, got 11 straight outs by strikeout.

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Atwater will play at Bird Island on Friday in the winner's bracket while Willmar plays host to Sacred Heart in an elimination-round game.

Eventually, four teams will be filtered out of the mix and two will advance to the region playoff against two teams from the Land O' Ducks.

Each team scored a run in the first. Zach Horning drew a walk off Malvin to open the game and came around to score on a stolen base and two ground outs.

Atwater leadoff hitter Josh Cunningham scored an unearned run in the first to knot the score 1-1.

Atwater catcher Lucas Pickle doubled in the fifth, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a suicide squeeze by Ryan Walsh for a 2-1 lead. Cunningham made it 3-1 when he scored on a wild pitch.

Willmar got six hits, but only one free pass off Malvin.

Steve Wetterling had a pair of hits. Willmar hit half dozen deep fly balls that the Chuckers' outfield easily settled under.

Walsh, in center, went to the fence and leaped to rob Jordan Olson of a solo home run in the seventh. Pickle called a pitchout and threw out Horning trying to steal in the third.

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The Chuckers and Rails split in the regular season.

Atwater 3, Willmar 1

Willmar (7-10)............................100 000 000 - 1 6 1

Atwater (10-11)...........................100 020 00x - 3 3 2

HITTING - Willmar: Zach Horning 1-for-2; Steve Wetterling 2-for-4; Jordan Olson 1-for-4, rbi; Jeff Freeman 1-for-4; Jason Gueverra 1-for-4 ... Atwater: Lucas Pickle 1-for-3, 2b; Josh Cunningham 1-for-3, 2 runs; Brian Kingery 1-for-2

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Willmar: Mark Krogstad (L) 8-3-3-2-5-16 ... Atwater: Michael Malvin (W) 9-6-1-1-1-4

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