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Osseo-Fairchild steals Mounders’ thunder in sectional game

OSSEO-FAIRCHILD — Although the game was played in a steady rain, there was no lightning to hold things up when the Elk Mound baseball team faced off against the Osseo-Fairchild Thunder in the sectional semi-final game played on the Thunder’s home field Tuesday, June 4.

After an earlier game in which Chequamegon defeated Cumberland 3-1, the rain began to fall and the grounds crew worked on the field to make it playable (as they did in between every inning) and the umpires decided to go ahead and play the game. The championship game that was scheduled to take place at 5:00 was postponed until Thursday due to the wet field.

The Mounders had their bats silenced by sophomore pitcher Lucas Eide as they managed to get just four hits off of him – all singles – in a 3-0 loss. Elk Mound ended the season with a record of 13-2, winning the Large Dunn St. Croix Conference with a 7-1 mark which was their fourth one in five years and also winning their fourth regional championship in five years.

If the first pitch of the ballgame was any indication of how the game would turn out, things looked pretty good for the Mounders as Garett Phillips drilled a single to center on that pitch. Phillips stole second and moved to third on a groundout on the second out of the inning but a fly ball left him standing on the base.

With three pretty solid pitchers on the roster for the Mounders, Phillips, with his 6-0 record got the call to start this game. After giving up just 12 runs all season with only nine of them earned, he posted a 1.31 earned run average with 67 strikeouts. He gave up a leadoff single but third baseman Hunter Kohls fielded a pop up on a bunt attempt before another basehit put Thunder runners on first and second. Phillips whiffed a batter as a runner went to third but Kohls fielded a grounder for the third out to leave the runner stranded.

Cole Tyman reached second on a throwing error on his ground ball with two outs in the second inning, but a strikeout left him in scoring position. The Thunder broke through for a run in their half of the inning on a pair of hits sandwiched around an infield error and with runners on second and third, Phillips came up with a big K to get out of the jam.

Elk Mound went down in order in the third and fourth innings and O-F came up with their second  run in the fourth after another infield error, a stolen base, an intentional walk to Sam Waters who knocked in the first run,  and a bloop hit to left field. Looking into a facefull of rain, Phillips snagged a pop up for the third out to leave two runners on the basepaths.

It looked like the Mounders were going to come up with a big inning when Tyman sent a base hit to right with one out in the fifth and Hunter Hermes followed suit with a hit to left. But even though the next two batters made solid contact, two fly outs to centerfield ended their scoring chance. The Thunder had a runner get to third base on a double and a wild pitch in the  bottom of the inning but Phillips forced a fly ball to centerfielder Seth Kruger to end another threat.

Dan Bachman got as far as second base with one out in the sixth on a single and a balk called on the pitcher, but again, the Mounders, who had been coming up with big hits all season (as short as it was) came up empty again and ended the sixth with a fly ball and a ground out.

O-F made things even more difficult, scoring another run with two outs on two base hits with a walk in between for a 3-0 lead heading into the final at bat for the Mounders. Kohls started the top of the seventh by drawing a walk and eventually stole second, but a pair of strikeouts with a fly ball out in between ended the game and season for the Mounders.

“Obviously, we would like to be playing another game,” Elk Mound coach Paul Andrea said after the loss. “We would have liked to have had a better performance, but this year it was not meant to be. There are 92 teams in our division who didn’t make the final four so our kids have nothing to hang their heads about. Earning a conference and regional championship is something they will remember all their lifetime. They were a part of a lot of wins and success during their careers and they will be missed.”

Phillips was dealt the loss, allowing nine hits with eight strikeouts and two walks. 10 seniors ended their high school playing days for the team.

Elk Mound              0  0  0  0  0  0  0 – 0
Osseo-Fairchild  0  1  0  1  0  1  X – 3