Perham takes south subsection; rematch Tuesday with Park Rapids
HAWLEY — The No. 7AA Perham Yellowjackets (19-2) have not forgotten what got last year’s ball club to the state championship game.
Perham employed the bunt far more in two playoff games than they did all season and playing smallball aided in a playoff sweep to defend the top-seed in the south subsection.
"Last time we pulled out the suicide squeeze was in state playoffs last year," said Josh Still.
The Yellowjackets shutout Ottertail Central 6-0, while the Hawley Nuggets gave the game to the Yellowjackets in a 9-1 Perham victory on the Nuggets’ home field.
Perham will now head back to Perham for home field in the next round to face the co-Heart O’ Lakes champions Park Rapids as both teams try to keep winning streaks going and avoid the loser’s bracket.
Perham put OTC away in the second inning of the opening game.
Jaden Meyer led off the frame with a single, followed by a successful bunt by Austin Erickson. Erickson stole second base and Meyer scored the game-winner on a RBI single by Joe Solberg.
With Erickson on third and Solberg on first base, Mason Malikowski laid down the suicide squeeze to push the lead to 2-0.
Solberg scored on a 6-3 fielder’s choice RBI by Jake Lueders.
CJ Mulcahy scored in the third reaching on an infield single and hopping two bags to third on a wild pitch. Erickson knocked Mulcahy in with a base hit for the 4-0 lead.
Mulcahy scored his second run of the game in the fifth unearned. He singled, took second on an errant throw, took third on a fielder’s choice and scored on a past ball.
Lueders scored the sixth run in the sixth after reaching on a walk and coasting home on a Josh Still RBI triple.
Still pitched six innings for the win allowing three hits. He took care of half of his innings himself fanning nine and walked two. Mason Malikowski walked a pair in relief in the seventh but struck out the side to end the game.
"Playoff record is much more important than the regular season record," said Still. "It was nice to get the one-seed, but we're looking forward to these games much more. One game at a time, rather than saving pitchers for the next game and the following week. We're coming in to win every game."
Perham 9, Hawley 1
Windy conditions confounded both teams but more the Nuggets who gave up the game to Perham in a four-error third inning that saw five consecutive Yellowjackets score on two errors: a two-RBI double by Jaden Meyer and a RBI single by Solberg to score Meyer to put up a four run lead. Erickson made it 5-0 on another squeeze bunt by Malikowski. Erickson and Malikowski both employed the bunt to much success in both games.
Perham added a run when Mulcahy scored for the second time on a bases loaded bean ball to Solberg from Nugget starter Kody Crabtree. The score was 6-0 on Solberg’s second RBI of the game.
Perham employed three base runners in the sixth inning and all three, Alex Tostenson, Josh Meader, and Nate Currier scored.
Malikowski led all batters with three RBI. He was 1-2 with a sacrifice and walk.
Solberg and Meyer each had a pair of RBI.
Dylan Kruzel pitched a complete game allowing four hits and one unearned run. Kruzel struck out seven and issued no walks.
He created the only real trouble of the game in Hawley’s last at-bats giving up a two-out single before beaning Chad Clute and Jeremy Schenk consecutive to load the bases.
Kruzel ended the jam striking out Jordan Harms on a 3-2 payoff pitch.
Perham the south subsection champs take on the northern champs Park Rapids Tuesday, June 3 at 4:30 p.m. at Krueger Field. The winner will advance to the Section 8AA final undefeated to await a team with one loss.
"We know what it takes to win," said Still.
Park Rapids and Perham split a doublehead in Perham earlier this season.
The site for the 8AA final has yet to be announced.