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Prep Baseball: Cats claw way to state

New London-Spicer's baseball team celebrates with their medals after defeating Luverne 8-3 in the Section 3AA championship. The Wildcats now advance to the Class AA state tournament for the first time in school history. Jake Schultz / Tribune 1 / 6
New London-Spicer's Paxton Nelson tries to backhand a throw as a Luverne runner slides into second base in Thursday's Section 3AA final in Granite Falls. Jake Schultz / Tribune2 / 6
New London-Spicer's baseball team celebrates with their trophy after defeating Luverne 8-3 in the Section 3AA championship. The Wildcats now advance to the Class AA state tournament for the first time in school history. Jake Schultz / Tribune 3 / 6
New London-Spicer's John Perkins singles in the second game of Thursday's Section 3AA final in Granite Falls. Jake Schultz / Tribune4 / 6
New London-Spicer celebrates at home plate after Josh Soine's double to take the 4-3 lead in the seventh inning in the Section 3AA championship Thursday night in Granite Falls. Jake Schultz / Tribune5 / 6
New London-Spicer pitcher Will Roguske throws a pitch in the first game of the Section 3AA final against Luverne in Granite Falls. Jake Schultz / Tribune6 / 6

GRANITE FALLS - Trailing 3-1 with three outs left, the seniors on New London-Spicer's baseball team knew they weren't ready for their high school baseball careers to be over Thursday night. So they clawed back with one of the most memorable innings in Wildcat history and took an 8-3 win over Luverne to win the Section 3AA championship and advance to the Class AA state tournament for the first time in school history.

The Class AA tournament begins Thursday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud.

Senior shortstop Wyatt White provided the rally-starter with a double off the base of the left-centerfield wall to plate John Perkins and bring the game to 3-2 with one out.

"I just didn't want to be done," said senior shortstop Wyatt White who went 2-for-4 with two doubles in game two. "Playing with my family is too fun to be done like that. You realize you only have three outs left, you have to make it worth it."

Josh Soine followed suit with a double immediately after White's to take the 4-3 lead and put the Wildcats firmly in control of the game. From there, NLS added four more runs but the momentum had swung for the final time.

"(John) Perkins, White, Soine, they all barrelled up balls when we needed it," NLS head coach Mike Thompson said. "Throughout the course of the season we've had games like this and we relied on that experience today. Obviously it wasn't part of the plan to push it back quite as long as we did but on the flip side we've been in this situation before earlier in the season so our kids kept pushing and kept grinding."

NLS started the game in an early 3-0 hole following a two-run home run from Jaxon Nelson and a throwing error that allowed Tyler Reisdorfer to score. Despite the bumpy first inning, Thompson said he never thought of removing starter Matt Spaulding who went on to earn a complete game win and only allowed three hits after the first inning.

"Matt has been clutch for us all year," Thompson said. "We felt comfortable with him in there and he really did a great job after that first inning."

Spaudling finished the game with six strikeouts in his seven innings.

Luverne's pitching, which had been rock solid most of the day, took a hit when starter Derek Lundgren was removed from the game in the sixth inning after reaching the maximum pitch count for the day. He also earned a one-inning save in the first game of the day.

Lundgren kept the Wildcats off the board aside from an RBI infield single from Josh Soine in the fifth inning thanks to some strong defense from the Cardinals. In 5-1/3 innings pitched, Lundgren allowed five hits and five walks but his defense was error-free behind him.

"Obviously you have to give Luverne some credit, they dominated play for about 13 innings today but on the flip side of it, some of our seniors really stepped up at the end," Thompson said. "They weren't ready for our season to be over."

The first seven hitters on the Wildcat lineup scored in the seventh inning, opening the door for Spaulding to finish the game with ease.

This is the second straight year the Wildcats have reached the winner-take-all game in the Section 3AA tournament. Last year, Paynesville took home the title and earned a trip to the state tournament but Thompson said that experience helped set his team up for the moment this year.

"The experience helped to a certain extent," Thompson said. "Since we were basically on the same field in the same situation last spring it was only to our benefit. We didn't panic, we just kept after it."

The Wildcats will now prepare for their first trip to the state tournament in school history, a feat that is not lost on the players or coaches.

"For seven years, we've been preaching family," Thompson said. "It took probably four years before our kids started to buy in but it's just about family. I don't know how to explain it. We're very thankful for the state tournament berth but now we need to reassess our goals. Being that we've never made the state tournament obviously we can't take for granted that we're going to be in this position going forward so we need to make the most of it while we're there."

Luverne escapes in Game 1

Luverne scored just enough runs and worked out of two late-inning jams to win 3-2 and force a second section title game.

In the first game, John Perkins singled with one out in the third inning and Wyatt White singled with two outs. Josh Soine singled in Perkins and White scored on a wild pitch to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.

NLS' Will Roguske cruised through the first four innings, allowing just two hits and a pair of walks. But in the fifth, Luverne's Derek Lundgren doubled to lead off, Mark Sterret walked with two outs and Declan Beers followed with a two-run triple that tied the game. Beers then scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

Luverne got out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth, getting a third-to-home putout for the second out, and starter and winner Ben Serie got a groundout to end the threat and preserve the lead.

NLS again threatened in the sixth, putting three runners on. But the Cardinals got a force for the first out, then got the second on a groundout to third and a Wildcats runner was caught trying to score from third on the throw from third to first.

Lundgren then got three outs in the seventh for the save.

Soine and Jake Schmidt both had two hits.

Game Two

NLS 8, Luverne 3

NLS 000 010 7-8 9 3

Luverne 300 000 0-3 5 1

Hitting - New London-Spicer: John Perkins 1-3 rbi r, Will Roguske 1-2 rbi r-2, Wyatt White 2-4 2b-2 rbi r, Josh Soine 2-4 2b rbi-3 r, Derek Dolezal 1-2, Matt Spaulding 2-3 rbi r, Jake Schmidt 0-4 rbi ... Luverne: Declan Beers 2-4 2b r, Jaxon Nelson 1-2 hr rbi-2 r

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - New London-Spicer: Spaulding (W) 7-5-3-2-2-6 ... Luverne: Derek Lundgren 5.1-5-1-1-5-3, Beers (L) 0.2-2-4-4-1-0, Jade Smith 0-0-2-1-2-0, Nelson 1-2-1-0-0-1

Game One

Luverne 3, NLS 2

Luverne 000 030 0-3 5 1

NLS 002 000 0-2 7 0

Hitting - Luverne: Declan Beers 1-4 3b rbi-2 r, Derek Lundgren 2-3 2b r ... New London-Spicer: John Perkins 1-4 r, Will Roguske 1-3, Wyatt White 1-4 r, Josh Soine 2-3 rbi, Jake Schmidt 2-3

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Luverne: Ben Serie (W) 6-7-2-2-4-3, Lundgren (Sv) 1-0-0-0-0-0 ... New London-Spicer: Roguske (L) 7-5-3-3-4-4