by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The Central baseball team concluded their regular season at home on Thursday, winning a pair of close games against Mayer Lutheran, 3-2 and 1-0.
The Raiders (9-5) finished second in the Minnesota River Conference, behind Jordan (11-3), and will begin playoffs on Saturday as a #4 seed, hosting #5 Watertown-Mayer 8-6 at 1 p.m. Should they win, they would face top-seed Holy Family in Victoria on Tuesday, May 28, at 5 p.m.
The Crusaders were seeded No. 7 in the Section 4A tournament and will host No. 10 PACT Charter on May 25 at 1 p.m. Pending no massive upsets, the winner of No. 7/No. 10 will likely play No. 2 New Life Academy of Woodbury on Tuesday.
CHS head coach Jon Wroge was pleased with the way his team edged out close games against the Crusaders.
Alex Meeker started the first game, pitching into the sixth inning.
LHS plated one run in the top of the fifth inning as Aaron Luehrs led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on the throw. After a strikeout and a groundout, Meeker was a called for a balk to bring the run home.
The Raiders, with only one hit courtesy of Jordan Kohls up to that point, would answer back with three runs in the bottom half.
Casey Clementsen led off with a single and, on a hit and run, scored on a double by Andrew Cardinal on a close play at home. Cardinal then scored on a wild pitch.
“Wroge called a hit and run so I was looking for something in the zone, something to drive the other way,” said Cardinal. “He threw it a little up so I just got on top of it and drove it to right.”
Isaac Hormann followed with a deep triple and later scored on a single by Jordan Kohls for the third run.
“He threw a lot of curveballs all day long,” said Hormann, “so I knew I was going to see one of those 3-2 so I just kind of sat on it and drove it.”
Meeker ran into a bit of trouble in the sixth frame, giving up two walks, one of which scored on a wild pitch. Hormann came on to record the last two outs.
“I just wanted to throw strikes there and work the knees good,” he said, also giving credit to Meeker. “He threw a lot of strikes and threw a lot of ground balls and got a lot of outs for us. He pitched good.”
Cardinal added it was nice to get a win against their rivals.
“This game doesn’t mean anything in terms of seeding for playoffs,” said Cardinal. “We definitely to come to the end of the season and get momentum so it’s good to get a win.”
Hormann pitched extremely well in the second game, going six innings and giving up three hits and recording three strikeouts without giving up a walk.
Central managed to scored the lone run in the third inning when Clementsen got a one-out single. He then stole second before a strikeout.
Hormann followed with a grounder to the hole and was called safe at first on a close play.
“We’ve always talked about this and Casey never broke stride and it was a close play at first,” said Wroge. “He calls him safe and the guy at first thing the guy does is looks at the umpire… Casey walks across the plate, no throw home.”
Wroge gave credit to LHS’ Tanner Luebke for his outing as he limited the Raiders to five hits, two each by Hormann and Clementsen and one by Kohls.
“Little things really helped us that game,” said Wroge. “We were really hoping to fight for the conference title this year, but with (Kyle) Brazil going down that really kind of hurt. That hurt, but it really forced other guys to step up which is nice to see.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, the Raiders had split with Watertown earlier in the season, losing 5-3 and winning 6-4.
“Should be a good game, should be fun,” said Wroge, who plans to start Isaac Hormann. “Hopefully the weather will break for us and we get some nice weather on Saturday.”
Contact Adam Gruenewald at firstname.lastname@example.org.