La Crescent shuts out PEM’s state hopes
Lancers claim title as Austin Walleser blanks Bulldogs
By Donny Henn
In retrospect, Plainview-Elgin-Millville baseball coach Scott Flattum admitted it would have been best to have never had to play a game on Wednesday.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville’s season-ending 6-0 loss to La Crescent in the Section One, Class AA championship game at Hudson Field was more difficult to accept on the heels of the Bulldogs’ heartbreaking extra-inning loss to the Lancers the night before.
La Crescent rallied for three runs in the seventh to tie Tuesday’s game, and then scored five times in the eighth to win 12-7 and force a deciding game in the final four double-elimination tournament.
"I wish we could’ve sealed the deal last night," Flattum said, "but I guess you can’t turn back the clock."
La Crescent rode yet another shutout pitching performance to the Section 1AA title Wednesday at Hudson Field, this one compliments of junior right-hander Austin Walleser.
La Crescent (21-8) opens the Class AA state tournament Thursday at 10 a.m. at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud. The Lancers will meet the Section 6AA champion, either Paynesville (18-4) or St. Cloud Cathedral (20-3).
Walleser scattered five hits and allowed only three Plainview-Elgin-Millville base runners as far as second base. He wasn’t perfect; he hit two batters to start both the third and fourth innings, but then he stranded those runners.
Walleser kept the PEM batters off-balance with a mix of sharp-breaking curve balls and high fastballs. He had just two strikeouts, but walked only one and hit two batters.
"(Walleser’s) high fastball, that’s what we had trouble with," Flattum said. "We worked on that, and we slapped a few through for hits, but we just didn’t catch up to enough of them."
It was La Crescent’s third shutout win in five games in the final four tournament, and seventh shutout in the last 12 games. Before that, the Lancers pitchers hadn’t thrown a shutout all season.
"It’s pretty amazing what we’ve done," said Walleser, a lanky 6-foot junior who upped his record to 9-1 and lowered his ERA below 0.80.
"We (pitchers) just go out and throw strikes and let our defense get the outs behind us."
La Crescent climbed through the losers bracket after falling to PEM 2-1 in the second round Saturday.
The Lancers staved off elimination with two wins Tuesday, edging Kasson-Mantorville 1-0, and coming from behind to beat PEM.
"It’s so tough to do what we did, and it’s a tough on PEM, too," La Crescent coach Rick Boyer said. "This was a storybook ending for us, and a nightmare for them."
It’s the fifth section title for La Crescent, and the first since back-to-back crowns in 2003 and 2004. Boyer said he didn’t see this one coming.
"No way, not at all," he said, shaking his head. "I didn’t think we were nearly as good as last year. But then as the year went on I could see us getting better and better. Our defense is just so good."
La Crescent went ahead 2-0 in the third inning against PEM starting pitcher Clay Olstad, scoring the first run on an infield throwing error by PEM, and the second on a sacrifice fly.
The Lancers added three runs in the fifth, combining three singles with a hit batter and two more errors by the Bulldogs. PEM finished with five errors, which led to two unearned runs.
"I think most of those errors were aggressive plays that just didn’t work out," Flattum said. "Why fault those errors?"
La Crescent knocked Olstad out in the sixth, following a walk and a run-scoring double down the left-field line by No. 3 hitter Colin Dingfelder.
La Crescent handed Olstad (7-1) his only loss of the season, after PEM had dealt the Lancers’ Walleser (9-1) his only defeat on Saturday.
"I thought Olstad pitched great," Flattum said. "Most of their hits were just flares; of their first six hits, I think only one was hit well."
PEM finished with a 18-10 record and just missed qualifying for its first state baseball tournament.
"It’s pretty frustrating right now," said catcher Matt Pick, one seven seniors on the team, including five starters.
Blaine Miller, a junior center fielder who helped the PEM football to the section final in the fall, and the wrestling team to a section title in the winter, said his team would be back.
"We’re definitely disappointed; the wheels kind of fell off," Miller said. "We’ve had an unbelievable year, but we’ve got the talent here, and we can do it again — in all those sports."
SECTION 1A CHAMPIONSHIP
LA CRESCENT 6, PEM 0
La Crescent 002 031 0 — 6 9 0
PEM 000 000 0 — 0 5 5
La Crescent: Colin Dingfelder 2-for-3, 2B, RBI, SB; Kory Schulte 1-for-2, 2 RBIs; Gabe McDowell 2-for-4, RBI; Troy Traxler 2 SB, 1 R. WP: Austin Walleser 7 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 2 K, 1 BB, 2 HB.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville: Clay Olstad 2-for-3; Ross Grobe 1-for-2; Ben Keilholtz 1-for-3; Greg Naschansky 1-for-2. LP: Clay Olstad 51⁄3 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 K, 2 BB, 1 HB. Also: Andrew Massee 12⁄3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 K, 2 BB.