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23 straight and off to state: Vikings win Section 1A title

The No. 1 seeded Hayfield baseball team was able to beat the heat and the No. 2 seeded Lyle-Pacelli Athletics to win the Section 1A title 7-3 in Seltz Field Thursday.

The win gives Hayfield it’s second Minnesota Class A State Baseball Tournament berth in school history after going to state in 2019.

Hayfield junior pitcher Easton Fritcher, who allowed just two hits and struck out nine, was one of the Vikings who played on that 2019 team.

“Most of these guys were sitting there watching two years ago,” Fritcher said of his team. “For them to come out on the big stage and execute like they did is an awesome feeling. They’ve worked their butts off in practice and that’s how much heart this team has. This is the second to last job. We want to go get a state title in baseball like we did in basketball and I think we have a pretty good chance at it.”

L-P had a big chance to make some noise in the top of the seventh inning when it drew three straight one-out walks to load the bases. That’s when Joey Tempel took to the mound in relief. He forced Zach Bollingberg into a sacrifice fly and Joey’s cousin and catcher Isaiah Tempel caught L-P’s Cole Walter stealing at second base to end the game.

“I was a little nervous, but I was pretty confident,” Joey said. “We had a solid lead and I just had to shove. We came out successful.”

The Vikings (23-0 overall) used an early rally to take a 4-0 lead and broke the game open when Joey Tempel drove in two runs with a two-out single to make it 6-1 in the fourth.

“I thrive off of good pitchers. When the pitching is kind of slower, I struggle,” Joey said. “Fast pitching is my game and I knew (Bollingberg) was fast, so I came in there confident.”

Fritcher retired the first 10 batters he faced in order before Bollingberg reached on a dropped fly ball with one out in the fourth. L-P went on to load the bases when Sam Nelsen and Jed Nelson drew back-to-back walks. Bollingberg scored on a wild pitch to pull L-P within 4-1. Hunter VaDeer then drew a walk to reload the bases, but Hayfield was able to turn a double play off a Mac Nelson pop fly when Jed Nelson got caught leaning too far off of second base.

“It was definitely a mental game and I wouldn’t say I did great with it,” Fritcher said. “I went into the dugout after that inning and I took a deep breath.” 

The Athletics (20-4 overall) also had a runner picked off in the fifth when Fritcher fired to first to catch Jake Truckenmiller off guard for an out.

Easton’s a tough pitcher and he’s one of the best in the area,” L-P head coach Brock Meyer said. “We couldn’t get anything going and our baserunning mistakes cost us. At the end of the day, they’re a good team and good luck to them.”

Just like they did on Tuesday, the Vikings came out with a blast as the first five Hayfield hitters reached base to start the game. Isaiah Tempel had a key two-run single and Hayfield led 4-0 by the time the first inning was over.

Bollingberg recorded L-P’s first hit of the game when he drove a two-out single to right field to score a run and bring the Athletics within 6-2 in the fifth. Fritcher struck out Nelsen with runners on the corners to avoid further damage.

Hayfield had to use three pitchers to get through the final inning, but Hayfield head coach Kasey Krekling didn’t mind relying on the team’s depth.

“Usually when we get a lead, we preach to throw strikes and make them earn it,” Krekling said. “We’ve been a little helter-skelter in the pitching effort, but they gutted through when they needed to. That was big.”

L-P will graduate a strong senior class that includes Bollinberg, Walter, Sam Nelsen, Jed Nelson and Jayden Lewis.

“They’re great kids all around and for every sport they’ve been in, they’ve been phenomenal,” L-P head coach Brock Meyer said. “They’re great role models and hopefully the kids behind them take after them and work their butts off.”

The Class A state quarterfinals are scheduled for Tuesday at St. Cloud, with the semifinals set for Wednesday in St. Cloud. The Class A state title game is set for 10 a.m. Saturday in Target Field.

Lyle-Pacelli 000  110  1  —  3  2  1 

Hayfield 400  201  X  —  7 9  1

Hayfield pitching: Easton Fritcher (W) 6 1/3 IP, 2 H, 6 BB, 2 R, 1 ER, 9 K; Nolan Klocke, 0 IP, 2 BBs; Joey Tempel, ⅔ IP, 0 R

Hayfield hitting: Fritcher, 0-for-1, 3 BBs, SB, 3 R; Joey Tempel, 2-for-4, 2 RBIs, R; Karver Heydt, 1-for-4, R; Lucas Hansen, 0-for-2, HBP, R, RBI; Isaiah Tempel, 2-for-3, 2 RBIs; Ethan Slaathaug, 0-for-3; Erik Bungum, 2-for-2, HBP, SB; Isaac Watson, 1-for-3, RBI; Nolan Klocke, 1-for-3, R

LP pitching: Zach Bollingberg, 5 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 7 ER, 8 K, 2 HBP

LP hitting: Cole Walter, 0-for-2, BB; Zach Bollingberg, 1-for-3, 2 RBIs, R; Sam Nelsen, 0-for-2, BB; Jed Nelson, 0-for-2, BB; Hunter VaDeer, 0-for-2, BB; Mac Nelson, 0-for-3; Jake Truckenmiller, 1-for-3, BB, R; Jayden Lewis, 0-for-3; Landon Meyer, 0-for-1, 2 BBs, R