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Tumberg walk-off RBI sends Mills to state semifinals

New York Mills’ Damon Tumberg singles to center field on Thursday in Chaska. Ben Brewster / Forum News Service2 / 2

CHASKA — The New York Mills Eagles (24-0) rallied with four runs in the final two innings to advance to the Minnesota Class A state baseball semifinals defeating Ely 4-3 on a walk-off liner by Damon Tumberg to score Nick Kupfer with the game-winner at Chaska Athletic Park Thursday evening.

“It was crazy,” said Tumberg. “I was just thinking hit the ball, put it in play and was just praying and praying I could get the job done.”

Tumberg was batting in the two-hole, the normal position of Adam Patron, who was unable to hit due to a hand injury. Patron did catch behind the plate in the game.

Taylor Ericksrud beat out a hit to second base to lead off the bottom of the seventh reaching on an error, but was gunned out at second base on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Nick Kupfer.

Kupfer reached on the fielder’s choice and stole second base to get into scoring position for Tumberg, who hit a line drive off diving centerfielder Jeff Willis’ glove to score Kupfer with the game-winner.

“I think this gives us a huge adrenaline boost,” Tumberg said. “We’re going to come out firing on all cylinders tomorrow.”

Ely took a 3-0 lead after loading the bases on a trio of infield hits with one out in the top of the second. Spencer Gaulke scored from third on a two-out wild pitch by Brandon Kupfer for a 1-0 lead.

“I started to aim the ball,” Kupfer said. “I wasn’t throwing like I usually do. I mixed up a lot, 50 percent fastballs, but threw a lot of changeups. I was able to make that look like a fastball and could target the change-up but not the fastball. The seventh inning, I came out with an adrenaline rush and got back on track.”

Gaulke hit a one-out triple in the top of the fifth and scored on a RBI double by Ben Gantt to go up 2-0. Pat Huisman reached on another infield single to push Gantt to third base. Louis Gerzin hit a bloop to score Gantt to put the Timberwolves up 3-0.

The Eagles were scoreless until the sixth and found a way to score four runs on only four hits, three of which came in the final two frames.

“Good leadership,” Brandon Kupfer said. “Getting people up and around, coming through when it matters. You look at our team in the sixth and seventh compared to the first five innings, it was a totally different team.”

“We weren’t really hitting the ball until the sixth inning,” said Tumberg. "We just put the ball in play and things worked out.”

“Hats off to (Gerzin), he was a tough pitcher,” Kupfer said. “We finally got on him and you could tell he was getting fatigued.”

NY Mills brought the top of the order up in the bottom half of the sixth trailing 3-0. Tumberg reached on a walk with one out and scored when Brandon Kupfer one-hopped the fence with a 389-foot RBI double to centerfield to cut the Ely lead to 3-1.

Courtesy runner Tyler Ehnert, running for Kupfer, advanced to third base on a lazy fly from Tyler Patron that dropped safely. Ehnert scored to cut the lead to one run and Patron moved up to second base on a past ball strike to Dustin Gaudette.

Gaudette took first base on a two-strike bean ball followed by a Daniel Kraft grounder to shortstop that loaded the bases on a throwing error to the second base bag by Will Gustafson.

Tucker Skoblik hit a sacrifice fly to score Patron to tie the score at three.

Ely’s Pat Huisman hit a one-out liner in the top of the seventh, but was stranded there.

Brandon Kupfer pitched over 100 pitches in the game and picked up the complete game victory scattering nine hits, allowing three runs, walking one and striking out eight.

Tumberg was 2-2 with a run and the game-winning RBI.

Brandon Kupfer was 1-3 with a double and one RBI.

Gerzin took the loss pitching 6 ⅓ innings allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits. He matched Kupfer’s numbers fanning eight and walking one.

New York Mills will face Chatfield Friday back in Chaska at 2:30 p.m., one game away from their goal - Target Field on Saturday at noon for the championship game. Chatfield advanced over Royalton 6-3.

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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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