Eagles' championship quest comes up short
MINNEAPOLIS — The New York Mills Eagles came up 90-feet short from tying the state championship game in their final at-bat to finish the season with their only loss - a 5-4 heartbreaker to New Life Academy of Woodbury (25-4) at Target Field Saturday.
“We didn’t play our best game today,” Head Coach Chris Bushinger said. “That second inning...Brandon gave up a few hits, but we had a few errors out in the field. We left eight runners on base, but to get an opportunity to play in a place like this, make it to a state championship game, certainly can’t forget about the successes we had.”
New Life Academy got on the board with a two-out rally in the first inning on a single by John Horner, who scored on a RBI double by catcher Simon Killeen for the 1-0 lead.
Kupfer gave up four hits and four runs in the second inning, along with a pair of Eagle errors as New Life Academy batted around the order.
Leadoff hitter Matthew Palkovich had a two-run double and scored the eventual game-winner on a two-run single by Sam Horner.
“Once in a lifetime chance, I just had that one rough inning and it’s going to haunt me,” said Kupfer. “So close, yet so far.”
After the nightmare second inning, Kupfer was locked in allowing two hits the rest of the game and retiring New Life Academy in order in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings.
New York Mills rallied with a possible answer in the bottom half of the second inning.
Tyler Patron singled and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Daniel Kraft, but NLA starter John Horner worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam stranding three Eagles on the bases to keep the lead 5-1.
New York Mills pulled to within one run in the fourth inning.
Kraft led off with a walk, followed by Tucker Skoblik’s second single of the game. With two away, Damon Tumberg hit a liner off right fielder Thomas Becken’s glove to score Kraft and courtesy runner Taylor Ericksrud, running for Skoblik. Tumberg cut the lead to 5-4 scoring on a long double by Kupfer.
Kupfer had started both late-inning rallies to win in the quarterfinals and semifinals and came up to lead off the seventh inning. Reliever Sam Horner induced a 6-3 putout for the first out.
Tyler Patron hit a long double off the wall to get in scoring position with one out and moved to third on a ground out to second base by Dustin Gaudette.
Adam Patron, playing with an injured hand, came to the plate with his brother 90-feet away with the tying run and two out. Horner got his third ground ball of the inning to end the game.
“That’s the game of baseball,” Head Coach Chris Bushinger said. “We gave ourselves an opportunity to tie it up and it didn’t happen.”
Tyler Patron and Tucker Skoblik each had a pair of hits for New York Mills.
Kupfer allowed six hits, five runs, three earned. He fanned four batters and walked two.
John Horner picked up the victory pitching four innings, allowing all four Eagle runs on five hits. Horner’s brother Sam picked up the save with three innings of one-hit ball.
Damon Tumberg, Tyler Patron and Brandon Kupfer were all named to the Class A all-tournament team.
New York Mills finishes the season with a record of 25-1.
NLA 140 000 0 — 5 6 1
NYM 010 003 0 — 4 6 3
NLA: J. Horner (WP), S Horner (S) and Killeen.
NYM: B. Kupfer (LP) and A. Patron.