Greyhounds advance to Super Section
With their season on the line Sunday afternoon, the Austin Greyhounds turned to veteran pitcher Bryan Toov to put away the pesky Marshall A's.
Toov doesn't throw smoke nor strike out a lot of hitters, but just wins the big games. He was the winning pitcher in the Hounds first state championship nine years ago and once again, Toov got the job done when his team needed it the most.
After winning the first game of the weekend series for the Class B, Section Two playoffs by a 5-4 score Saturday night, the Hounds lost to the A's 4-3 in the opener on Sunday at Marcusen Park.
Helped by three runs in the bottom of the first from his offense, Toov went all nine innings in the third game and finally eliminated the A's with an 8-3 win. Austin now advances to the Super Section next weekend.
"Both teams emptied their tanks and it was a tough series," Hounds player/manager John Frein said. "Toov just knows how to win and he threw well. It was fun to win a big game like this in front of our home fans."
Delight under lights
Despite being the fourth seed in the section, the visiting A's had no fear of the top-seeded Hounds and every game came down to the wire. It would take determination, but Hounds pitcher Joe Huffman went the distance Saturday night and got the win.
The home team scored a pair of runs in the first inning and spotted Huffman to an early lead. Andy Swank started the rally by reaching base on an error and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Matt Cano next delivered a double to plate Swank and later scored on a double by Dan Swift.
Marshall came back and eventually tied the game in the seventh inning. The Hounds made a Huffman a winner when they scored the decisive run in the bottom of the eighth. Matt Raso hit a one-out double and scored on a single by Frein.
Closing it out, Huffman threw a scoreless top of the ninth for the complete game win. The Hounds hurler didn't walk anybody and finished the night with seven strikeouts.
"It was back-and-forth the whole way, but I felt stronger as the game went on," Huffman said. "I avoided the walks and the early runs helped me settle in. They tied the game with a solo homer, then I had to bear down after that and give the offense a chance to rally. The guys got me a run and it was an exciting win."
A's force playoff
Scoring three runs in the top of the eighth inning, the A's rallied to beat the Hounds in the first game on Sunday and forced a winner-take-all playoff. The Hounds led 1-0 and later 3-1, but couldn't hold the lead.
Nels Nelson was the starter for the Hounds and went into the eighth inning, but didn't figure in the decision. Zach Schara came on in relief and gave up the final run to take the loss.
Nick Rohne singled with one out in the first inning to spark an early Austin rally. Rohne stole second, went to third on an errant pickoff attempt, and scored on a single by Swift. The Hounds held that lead, until the A's tied the game with a run in the top of the seventh inning.
Back came the Austin guys with two runs in the bottom of the seventh. Swift walked and John Kirby came on as a pinch runner. Craig Braaten followed with a double to put runners at second and third. Kirby scored on a single by Raso and Braaten made it a 3-1 lead on a sacrifice fly from Cano.
A leadoff double from Tyler Flattum started the winning rally for the A's in the eighth. Nelson struck out the next batter, but a single scored a run and that was it for his day on the hill. Schara couldn't get out of the jam and the A's completed their comeback.
"We knew we had a battle on our hands and I told the guys between games to forget about the loss," Cano said. "The team came out with good energy in the late game. This time of year, the adrenaline of a big game gives you a little extra bounce in your step. The fans were really supportive over the weekend and we closed it out at home with a win."
For the first two games of the series, Swank didn't get a base hit. The Hounds leadoff batter remedied that problem with a single in the bottom of the first. This sparked the initial three-run rally and Austin led the whole way in the final game.
Swank moved to second on walk to Rohne and scored the game's first run on a single by Cano. Swift hit into a fielder's choice and Rohne was erased. A groundout by Braaten moved the runners into scoring position and they both came home on a single by Tyler Leopold.
Spotted to the early three-run lead, Toov worked his magic and got some help from the defense. Hounds shortstop Joe Kroc aided his pitcher with sterling play in the field. Kroc started an inning-ending double play as Toov got out of a jam in the second inning.
Kroc snagged a line drive to prevent the A's from starting a rally in the next inning. Kroc also hit a double as part of a three-run rally for the Hounds in the bottom of the eighth.
"We let one slip away, but we moved on from the loss and played well in the last game," Kroc said. "The defense made the plays and Toovie only gave up one earned run. The top of the batting order scored the first three runs and the bottom got the last three for us, so it was a total team effort."
Walks to Rohne and Cano in the bottom of the third resulted in two more runs for a 5-0 lead. An error and then a home run by Derek West gave the A's some life in the top of the fourth, but Toov stayed in control. The late double from Kroc and a triple from Frein gave him plenty of run support in the win.
"It's still a thrill after all these years to out there and help the team win," Toov said. "The adrenaline was going with our season on the line and the early runs helped me to settle into a nice rhythm. I was trying to keep the ball low and away to force their guys to hit ground balls. There were four solid teams in our section, so it was no surprise it would be a struggle to beat the A's."
Austin Greyhounds (25-10) play the Burnsville Bobcats at 6 p.m. on Friday at Dundas in the opening game of their Super Section. The late game of the double-elimination tournament will feature the Prior Lake Jays against the Duluth Express.
SECTION 2B PLAYOFFS
Greyhounds 5, Marshall A's 4
Marshall A's:LP: Pick 9 IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 4 K.
Austin Greyhounds:Andy Swank 0-for-5, R; Matt Cano 2-for-3, BB, 2B, 2 R, RBI; Craig Braaten 1-for-4; Dan Swift 1-for-3, 2B, R, RBI; Tyler Leopold 1-for-4, 2B, RBI; Matt Raso 2-for-4, 2B, R, RBI; John Frein 1-for-3, BB, RBI. WP:Joe Huffman 9 IP, 4 R, 2 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K.
Marshall A's 4, Greyhounds 3
Marshall A's:Tyler Flattum 1-for-3, 2 BB, 2B, R; Derek West 2-for-5, R, RBI; Taylor Rignell 2-for-5, RBI. WP: Nate Dickhausen 9 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 5 K.
Austin Greyhounds:Swank 0-for-2, 2 BB, SB; Nick Rohne 1-for-4, SB, R; Swift 1-for-3, BB, RBI; John Kirby 0-for-0, R; Braaten 1-for-4, 2B, R; Nate Johnson 1-for-4; Raso 2-for-4, RBI; Cano 0-for-0, RBI. SP: Nels Nelson 7 1/3 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 1 HB, 5 K. LP:Zach Schara 1 2/3 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 2 HB, 0 K.
Greyhounds 8, Marshall A's 3
Marshall A's: Chace Pollock 1-for-5, 2B; West 3-for-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI; Taylor Rignell 1-for-4, RBI. LP: Andrew Kinney 4 IP, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 4 K. RP: Pollock 4 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 2 K.
Austin Greyhounds:Swank 2-for-5, R, RBI; Rohne 0-for-2, 2 BB, R; Cano 1-for-3, BB, 2 R, RBI; Swift 1-for-4, R, RBI; Braaten 0-for-3, RBI; Leopold 1-for-3, 2 RBI; Raso 1-for-4; Kirby 0-for-0, R; Joe Kroc 2-for-4, 2B, SB, R, RBI; Frein 1-for-4, 3B, R, RBI. WP:Bryan Toov 9 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 HB, 0 K.