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Southland is one win away from Class A title

By Scott A. Kolb

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

JORDAN — They better get the fire truck ready, because there could be another celebratory homecoming for the Southland Rebels after they play in tonight’s Class A state baseball championship game.

Last week after they won the section title, the Rebels bus was escorted from Elkton back into Adams by the local fire department. Imagine what the ride will be like if the Southland boys win the first baseball state title in school history?

A pair of convincing wins on Thursday put the Rebels in their first state championship game. Southland beat Mayer Lutheran 5-0 in the first round of state, and then posted a 5-1 win over Red Lake County in the semifinals at the Jordan Mini Met.

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Southland (26-2) is riding a 23-game winning streak and plays Wabasso (24-6) for the state championship at 5:30 p.m. today in Jordan.

Senior leadership guided the Rebels to the title game. Kody Retterath pitched a six-hit shutout in the opener against Mayer Lutheran, and then drove in four runs in the semifinals.

Brian Voigt hit a two-run home run to spark the Southland offense in the first game of the day. He then came back with seven strong innings on the hill to get the win in the semifinals. Jake Chapek set the table for his big-swinging buddies as he was hit by a pitch three times in the two games, and all of those resulted in runs.

"That’s what we ask from our seniors," Southland coach Scott Retterath said. "I hate to say it, but it’s almost expected out of these guys. They have carried us all season and those were a couple of fun games to watch."

The Mini Met is a quaint little park that sits along the river. The scenic backdrop is picturesque and the dimensions are short. The Rebels hitters must have been salivating as they thought about banging the ball around this ballpark.

Another Voigt home run

Voigt wasted no time in the opening game as he punched one out in the bottom of the first inning. Chapek was hit by a pitch, and Voigt followed by clanging a shot off the old-time scoreboard just beyond the right-field fence.

"He left one up and I hit it off the scoreboard," Voigt said with a smile. "There was a big crowd here to watch us, and we didn’t want to disappoint them."

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Retterath had all the runs he would need in the first inning. The senior pitcher fired his second straight shutout in the post-season and the Rebels moved on to the semifinals.

Pitcher’s duel

For the first three innings of the semifinals, Voigt and Jeff Weiss of Red Lake County dueled to a scoreless draw. Southland then scored two runs in the top of the fourth and led the rest of the way.

The script was essentially the same for both of the rallies by the Rebels. Chapek was hit by a pitch, then Voigt got a single. They would both score on a double from Retterath in the fourth inning, and Southland was on top to stay.

"Once we put some runs up there that made it a lot easier for me and I started to mix in different pitches," Voigt said. "We ran into a couple of tough spots, but I know the defense has my back and everybody played through it. I was able to hit my spots and get some key strikeouts."

Three errors were committed by Southland in the semifinals, and a bobbled grounder led to the only run for Red Lake County in the bottom of the fourth. Voigt side-stepped more potential problems after an error and a walk put runners at the corners for Red Lake in the bottom of the fifth.

Voigt took care of business with a strikeout to end the threat. He went to record 10 strikeouts, and the offense put it way with another rally.

Insurance runs

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After he gave the Rebels the lead in the top of the fourth, Retterath put on an even better show a couple of innings later. On the biggest stage, Retterath had the decisive hits that powered his team to the title game.

Once again, Chapek was the instigator as he was nailed by an inside pitch from Weiss. This completely unnerved the Red Lake hurler and he followed with a walk to Voigt to put the first two runners aboard.

"My job as the leadoff batter in those two innings was do whatever it took to get on base," Chapek said. "It was time to get the offense going, and we needed base runners."

Derek Emanuel was up next and did his job by grounding out to the right side, which moved the runners to second and third. Tension heightened up in the picnic area where many of the Rebels faithful were hoping for a hit from Retterath to put the game away.

Not content to merely deliver a mundane single, Retterath launched a drive that may become the most talked about hit in Rebels baseball history. What initially looked to be a sacrifice fly began to carry over the center fielder’s head.

Cheers from the vociferous Southland rooting section quickly turned to gasps as Red Lake center fielder Pat Johnanneck crashed into the fence after a vain attempt to catch Retterath’s drive. The triple scored both Chapek and Voigt for a 4-1 lead and the Rebels faithful started shaking the wooden grandstands.

"Their guy was struggling again and I decided to jump on the first pitch," Kody Retterath said. "I was looking for a fastball and he left one out over the plate. I knew I had to get it up in the air and at least score one run, then it kept carrying. After their outfielder hit the wall, I took it for a triple. So far, the state tournament has been a lot of fun."

Winston Smith capped the rally for the Rebels by hitting a sacrifice fly to send Retterath home with the final run. Voigt allowed two base runners in the bottom of the sixth, but then struck out the next two batters. He then sent down the side in order in the seventh, and finished with his 10th strikeout.

"That’s the thing with this team, you never know who will step up and they just seem to get it done," coach Retterath concluded. "Kody had a heckuva of a day at state, and Brian pitched another great game. I’ll have to rely on those two seniors again in the championship game."

There will be a welcome home celebration for the team tonight at the high school in Adams after they return from the trip to state.

QUARTERFINALS

Southland 5, Mayer Lutheran 0

Mayer Lutheran 000 000 0 — 0 6 1

Southland 212 000 x — 5 8 1

Mayer Lutheran: Colton Otto 2-3; Josh Genske 1-3, 2B. LP: C.J. Byrne 6 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 1 HB, 1 K.

Southland: Jake Chapek 0-2, HBP, run; Brian Voigt 2-3, HR, SB, run, 2 RBI; Derek Emanuel 1-2, walk; Kody Retterath 2-3, run, RBI; Winston Smith 2-3, 2B, run, RBI; Mitch Nagele 1-3. WP: Kody Retterath 7 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 K.

SEMIFINALS

Southland 5, Red Lake County 1

Southland 000 203 0 — 5 6 3

Red Lake 000 100 0 — 1 2 1

Southland: Matt Schroeder 0-3, walk; Chapek 1-2, 2 HBP, 2 runs; Voigt 1-3, walk, 2 runs; Retterath 2-3, 2B, 3B, run, 4 RBI; Smith 0-2, RBI; Josh Bamrick 1-3; Chris May 1-3. WP: Voigt 7 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 10 K.

Red Lake County: Casey Cardinal 2-3, 2B, SB; Nolan Knott 0-3, run; Corey Schmitz 0-2, walk, RBI. LP: Jeff Weiss 6 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 K.

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