Rebels are off to state
Southland advances for first time in school history
By Scott A. Kolb
ROCHESTER — Pitching and defense led the Southland Rebels to the Class A, Section One baseball championship on Tuesday night and a first ever trip to state.
Kody Retterath threw a two-hit shutout and the Rebels scratched out a couple of runs to claim the section title with the 2-0 win over the Hayfield Vikings at Hudson Field.
The top-seeded Rebels had bashed their way into the championship game by averaging eight-plus runs in two previous sections wins, but this time they faced a scrappy Vikings team and it was a struggle to beat them for the third time in the post-season.
It was a scoreless pitcher’s duel for the first three-and-a-half innings between Retterath and MacEagon Voyce of Hayfield. After getting a 10-0 win over Chatfield in five innings in the elimination game, Voyce came back to throw six innings against the Rebels.
Voyce opened the bottom of the first inning by issuing a walk to Matt Schroeder and then hitting Jake Chapek with a pitch. This looked like the perfect recipe for disaster, but the Vikings hurler showed his resolve.
Facing the heart of the Rebels powerful batting order, Voyce fired three straight strikeouts to end the threat. This was a sign of things to come as it would stay close the whole way.
"I expected a tough game, and we had to earn the section title," Southland coach Scott Retterath said. "We battled hard and took advantage of their miscues. Hats off to Voyce, he pitched a great game."
Winston Smith walked and eventually made it to third in the bottom of the second, but the Rebels couldn’t come up with a key hit. Schroeder hit a leadoff single in the third and was also left on base.
While the offense struggled to find its rhythm that wasn’t the case on the pitcher’s mound. Retterath allowed a couple of base runners in the top of the first, then retired the next 10 straight batters.
In the biggest baseball game of his high school career, Retterath relished the role on center stage. A big crowd was on hand for the title game, and the Rebels hurler showed off his fortitude on the hill.
Recording six strikeouts was an impressive statistic for Retterath, but his biggest contribution to the title came with the first run. There some confusion in the Hayfield infield and Retterath dropped in a single to open the bottom of the fourth.
This ignited a Rebels rally as the Vikings defense fell apart. Subsequent errors on ground balls hit by Smith and Josh Bamrick loaded the bases.
After an out threatened to derail the rally, Southland’s ninth hitter Chris May delivered the goods. May hit a sacrifice fly and Retterath came home to break the scoreless deadlock.
"Voyce tried to jam me inside and I got a little hit to get on base," Kody Retterath said. "We tightened up a little bit in the early innings, but still got the job done. Winny made some great plays at second base and those were momentum changers in the field."
Smith completely changed the outlook of this game in the sixth inning with his dazzling play in the field and the only extra-base hit of the night.
In the top of the sixth, a Southland error on a hard hit grounder by Tyler Krekling of Hayfield opened the door to a potential rally. Voyce came up next and laced a liner that appeared to be headed into right field.
Smith ranged to his left and knocked down the ball. He then made a quick relay to first and threw Voyce out. Krekling reached second, but the defensive gem had turned the tide.
Retterath side-stepped the trouble by inducing a groundout and then, striking out Travis Kauffman to end the threat.
Following his heroics in the field, Smith hit a double to open the bottom of the sixth. He then tagged up on a fly out by Bamrick, and scored the final run on a single by Mitch Nagele.
"I just wanted to knock the ball down and there was still enough time to get the out," Smith said. "That play pumped me up and I came to the plate looking to be aggressive.
"Voyce had been pitching real well and he got two strikes on me, so I was just trying to put the ball in play. I noticed a little hesitation by their outfielder and hustled into second. We’ve started slow before and got it going. We’re used to the pressure."
Last year, the Rebels got to this round of the playoffs and fell one run short of state. This time, there would be no missed opportunity and they came home with the championship trophy.
Before they could celebrate with team pictures and cupcakes, the faithful fans of the Rebels had to endure one more test.
In the top of the seventh, Retterath walked Ben Pollock to open the inning. Once again, Smith and his glove would play a central role in curbing a threat.
A fielder’s choice erased Pollock from the base paths and left Tyler Nelson on first with one out for the Vikings. Smith snared the grounder and fired to shortstop Brian Voigt to get the lead runner.
Sensing the title was within his grasp, Retterath next got a strikeout. This brought the most dangerous hitter for the Vikings to the plate.
Darin Wagner hit two home runs last Saturday in the section. A first inning home run by Wagner was the only offense for the Vikings in two section losses to the Rebels.
"We wanted Darin to be up there with a guy on base and that’s what happened," Hayfield coach Craig Selk said. "I knew Kody wouldn’t back down. Even if his dad told him to walk Darin, he wouldn’t have done it. Those two guys are good friends and they love to compete against each other."
With eighth-grader Steven Serratore on deck, the strategy for walking Wagner had some merit. Scott Retterath took a walk out to the mound and discussed this possibility with his pitcher.
In the end, the consensus was reached to pitch to Wagner. It proved to be the right decision as a fielder’s choice groundout ended the season for Hayfield. Fittingly, it was a flip from Smith to Voigt for the final out.
"It’s been a long road to the section title for our kids and they left it all on the field," coach Retterath concluded. "They were so close last year and came up short. This year they got it done and now, we’re going to state."
Southland (24-2) takes its 21-game winning streak to the first round of the Class A State Tournament next Thursday morning at the Jordan Mini Met.
SOUTHLAND 2, HAYFIELD 0
Hayfield 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Southland 000 101 x — 2 4 2
Hayfield: Steven Serratore 1-3; Tyler Nelson 1-3. LP: MacEagon Voyce 6 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 HB, 6 K.
Southland: Matt Schroeder 1-2, 2 walks, SB; Kody Retterath 1-3, run; Winston Smith 1-2, 2B, walk, run; Mitch Nagele 1-3, RBI; Chris May 0-2, SB, RBI. WP: Retterath 7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 3 BB, 6 K.
HAYFIELD 10, CHATFIELD 0, 5 inn.
Chatfield 000 00 — 0 2 0
Hayfield 106 3x — 10 10 1
Chatfield: Dustin Priebe 1-2, 2B. LP: Phil Bray 2 IP, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 H, 5 BB, 1 K.
Hayfield: Serratore 1-2, RBI; Derek Petersen 2-3, 3B, run, 2 RBI; Voyce 1-2, 2B, run, RBI. WP: Voyce 5 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 K.