Millers come back from six runs down to advance in Hi-10 playoff action
NEW YORK MILLS -- Drew Schultz capped an inspired comeback with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly to complete a string of seven unanswered runs in a 9-8 elimination game playoff victory over the Bluffton Braves Sunday night.
A seesaw game early was broken open by a four-run Braves fifth, in which Bluffton scored four runs on just one hit to take their biggest lead of the game 8-2.
Two costly errors and two walks aided Bluffton in all four runs.
Jeff Hamann left the mound midway through the top of the fifth and gave way to Josh Hendrickx in relief.
Hendrickx allowed two of the four runs.
Down six, Hamann gathered the entire Millers team outside of their dugout, read them the riot act in a lengthy pep talk and the Millers responded with a five-run bottom of the fifth to pull within a run.
Hendrickx led off with a single and Hamann backed up his bark with a two-run homer to get the inning started in the right direction and cutting the Bluffton lead to 8-4.
Bluffton starter Kyle Dykhoff walked Schultz and Alex Helmeke consecutively and hit the showers. Dustin Geiser came on in relief.
Jason Burg scored Schultz on a one-out fielder's choice. The lead was two, 8-6, after a ground out to third base by Mike Baune scored Helmeke.
Burg scored on an error at first base to give a downtrodden Miller team new life and a deficit of now only one, 8-7.
Bluffton's Jordan Vaughn reached third base in the seventh inning but Hendrickx retired Matt Geiser to end the inning.
The rest of the 4.2 innings pitched by Hendrickx, who earned the victory, were quick and painless.
Schultz took care of the eighth inning defense himself recording all three putouts at first base. He doubled up Dustin Geiser on a hit-and-run attempt that was popped up by Cody Geiser.
Schultz made the catch by the bag and beat Dustin Geiser to first for the double play. Marc Sweere grounded to Schultz at the first base bag to end the inning.
Hendrickx and Schultz were vocal leaders on the field in the late innings and were the two key components in the comeback.
Schultz tied the game at eight in the sixth inning.
He ripped a single to left field and scored on a Helmeke double. The play at the plate had Schultz dead to rights but he swerved in the baseline to avoid the catcher's tag and barreled into home plate with the tying run.
Helmeke left the game with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
The crowd got louder as the contest wore on in a game that saw three lead changes in the first three innings, a couple of big scoring middle innings and an intense final third of the game.
Jake Brockpahler led off the Millers eighth inning with a walk and scooted to second base on a past ball.
Hendrickx squared to lay down a bunt to sacrifice Brockpahler to third but Hendrickx reached safely when Brockpahler drew the throw to third base. The throw was not in time.
Dustin Geiser put Hamann away on an unassisted tag by first baseman Marc Sweere for the first out. Hendrickx moved to second base.
Schultz strode to the plate and lifted a fly deep enough to the left-center gap to be caught and allow Brockpahler to score with the eventual game-winning run.
The Braves got to Hamann early scoring six runs on the Millers' starter, three earned. Hamann walked six, four of whom scored. He struck out three batters in a no-decision.
The Millers roughed up Braves' starter Kyle Dykhoff for six runs, as well, all earned. Dykhoff matched Hamann with six walks, three scored. He struck out three batters in a nearly identical line between the two starting pitchers.
The difference was Dykhoff allowed eight hits, Hamann only two.
The game came down to long relief and Hendrickx won the duel over Geiser.
Hendrickx earned the victory allowing two runs, none earned, and three hits. He walked one in 4.2 innings of work.
Geiser took the loss pitching four innings. He allowed three runs, two earned on four hits; he walked and fanned one.
Geiser was also the only Braves' batter with more than one hit. He was 2-4 with two singles and a run scored.
Vaughn scored twice for Bluffton.
Cody Geiser, Dykhoff and Nick Goeden each had a hit for the Braves.
Brockpahler and Burg were each 2-4 with one RBI and a run scored for the Millers.
Schultz was 1-3, with the game-winning RBI and two runs scored.
Hamann was 1-4 with two RBI on the only home run of the game.
Mike Baune was 2-4 with two RBI and a run scored in a productive night in the nine spot.
The Millers' victory sets up a game with rivals, the Perham Pirates, next Friday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Perham. The winner will face the No. 2 seed, the Detroit Lakes Angels.
Should the Millers defeat the Pirates, a revenge game will be at hand for a 16-0 drubbing the Angels gave New York Mills Saturday in Audubon.
The loser of next week's Pirates/Millers game will be the number four Hi-10 seed in the Region 14C tournament and will get a match-up with the Lake and Pine League South champion.
The remaining three Hi-10 teams will battle for the top seed next weekend.
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Hi-10 baseball Playoffs
Bluffton Braves at New York Mills Millers, Russ Jacobson Field, New York Mills, Minn. Sunday, July 22.
BLU 102 140 000- 8 5 1
NYM 020 051 01X- 9 12 3
AB R H Bi
D. Geiser 4 1 2 1
C. Geiser 4 2 1 0
Sweere 3 1 0 0
Dykhoff 3 1 1 0
Tumberg 4 0 0 0
Najjar 5 0 0 0
Vaughn 2 2 0 0
K. Geiser 4 1 0 0
Goeden 3 0 1 1
x-M. Geiser 1 0 0 0
Totals 30 8 5 2
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-k): BLU - Dykhoff 4-8-6-6-6-3; D. Geiser (LP) 4-4-3-2-1-1...NYM: Hamann 4.1-2-6-3-6-3; Hendrickx (WP) 4.2-3-2-0-1-0.
New York Mills
AB R H Bi
Huwe 3 0 0 0
Brockpahler 4 1 2 1
Hendrickx 4 1 2 0
x-Frost 0 0 0 0
Hamann 4 1 1 2
Schultz 3 2 1 1
Helmeke 2 1 1 1
x-Patron 1 0 0 0
Kupfer 4 0 1 0
Burg 4 2 2 1
Baune 4 1 2 2
Totals 33 9 12 8