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Yellowjackets punch ticket to state baseball final at Target Field

Austin Erickson celebrates after nabbing a line drive back to the mound for the final out of Perham's 5-3 state semifinal victory. Robert Williams/FOCUS1 / 3
Josh Still is congratulated by the Perham bench after scoring an insurance run in the sixth inning to put Perham up 5-3. Robert Williams/FOCUS2 / 3
No. 9 hitter Luke Sailer had two big RBIs in Perham's victory over Watertown-Mayer in the state semifinals. Robert Williams/FOCUS3 / 3

ST. CLOUD — Perham starter Austin Erickson suffered some early bumps on the mound and a bruise at the plate but pitched a complete game to send the Perham Yellowjackets to the Minnesota Class 2A state baseball final after a 5-3 victory over the Watertown-Mayer Royals Friday.

Two errors in the second inning led to Perham’s first deficit in three games when Joe Reinert scored to put the Royals up 1-0.

“The kids were more jittery today than they were yesterday,” Head Coach Hans Hanson said. “They were a little bit more on edge.”

Perham answered in the bottom half with the duo of leadoff hitter Josh Still and No. 9 hitter Luke Sailer, who keyed the Perham offense. Sailer singled to tie the game scoring courtesy runner Tanner Carlson. Still laid down the squeeze bunt to score Joey Lindberg for the 2-1 lead. Perham would not trail the rest of the game.

Carlson was running for Erickson who started the rally with some valiant heroics. He fouled an 0-2 pitch off the fists and the ball ricocheted off the bat striking Erickson in the right cheek just under the cheekbone.

Erickson was down and attended to by medical personnel for eight minutes before remaining in the game. Back at the plate he fouled off a pitch and then drove the third 0-2 offering up the middle for a base hit.

A Perham team that began with nerves, played a more motivated and confident style of ball after Erickson laced that base hit.

“Rough day at the plate,” Erickson said. “That’s the second shot this year to the face. I was a little dizzy.”

Both Still and Sailer had two RBIs in the game and would combine for the game-winner in the fourth..

Lindberg singled to start the inning followed by a sacrifice bunt attempt by Jaden Meyer that squirted past Royals pitcher Andrew Nichols. A late throw to the first base bag by Royals’ second baseman PJ Hangartner got away and both runners advanced to second and third base.

Sailer got his second RBI with a hot smash to second base which was nearly a base hit if not for a diving stop by Hangartner, who threw out Sailer scoring Lindberg. Still followed with a deep sacrifice fly to plate courtesy runner Jake Lueders with the game-winning run and a 4-1 lead.

The Royals roared back with a five-hit top of the fifth scoring twice but Erickson ended the threat from a bases-loaded one-out situation with a strikeout of Nichols and an unassisted putout at first base off the bat of left fielder Mark Sandquist keeping the one-run lead 4-3.

Erickson had plenty of time to toss the ball to the bag but chose to run the distance from the mound to first to make the putout himself. The unassisted play foreshadowed the final out of the game.

Perham added an insurance run in the sixth on three successive singles by Still, Jack Stigman and CJ Mulcahy. Still scored from second for the 5-3 lead on Mulcahy’s base hit.

In the Royals’ final at-bats, Matt Elsenpeter and Brendan Weege each singled with one away putting the go-ahead run at the plate.

Erickson induced a pop to Sailer at second base for the second out before snagging a line drive off the bat of Nichols to end the game.

Erickson raised his glove and sprinted to a joyous Perham dugout.

Erickson (5-0) allowed one earned run on nine hits. He struck out three and issued no walks.

On offense, all nine Perham starters had one hit, all singles. Lindberg scored twice.

“These guys know what they have to do and I don’t know if its fate or what, but they’re playing good baseball and not making a lot of mistakes,” Hanson said. “We’re not the most overpowering team or best hitting team down here but we’re performing pretty well.”

Nichols (5-2) took the loss pitching four innings allowing four runs, three earned. He walked two and had no strikeouts.

Unseeded Perham will face No. 5 Kasson-Mantorville in the 2A final at Target Field in Minneapolis Monday, June 17 at 1 p.m. Kasson-Mantorville shutout No. 1 St. Cloud Cathedral 5-0.

“It’s very exciting,” Erickson said. “I never thought we’d come so far. We’re going to see another tough team but if we keep playing our baseball we’re going to be alright.”

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Andrew Nichols, Matt Elsenpeter (5) and Brett Johnson. Austin Erickson and CJ Mulcahy. WP-Erickson. LP-Nichols.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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