There are plenty of second chances during a 13-inning game.
Tabor and Kimball/White Lake went toe-to-toe for 13 innings in the first round of the Class B state amateur tournament on Thursday at Cadwell Park, but the Nationals appeared to take control on Wes Kroupa’s line drive off Bluebird pitcher Colin Muth.
Muth had a chance to redeem himself, though, stepping to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 13th. A wild pitch tied the game, meaning Muth just needed to put the ball in play. That’s just what he did, hitting a fly ball to shallow left field to give Tabor a 6-5 win.
“I came up to bat in some pretty big spots and didn’t fulfill my role,” Muth said. “I think it’s God saying, ‘This your game to finally do something.’ That passed ball really helped out, because instead of going for that single, all I had to do is put the ball in play.”
Muth almost didn’t get his second chance, however, as Kimball/White Lake pitcher Zak Wallner appeared on his way to redeeming earlier mistakes. He had been a rock for most of the game, throwing 221 pitches in 12 2/3 innings.
Wallner worked his way in and out of trouble throughout the game, but walks were his bugaboo. Six of his 10 led to Bluebird runs, and eventually, the Nationals could not escape one last jam.
“At some point we were going to bust one through,” Tabor player-manager Chris Sutera said. “It wasn’t a hit, but Colin blooped it out far enough and Zach (Sutera) had enough speed to score the winning run for us.”
Moments before Muth’s game-winner, Tabor’s Hunter Hallock hit a ground ball to shortstop, setting up for what appeared to be the start of a game-ending double play.
Seth Kirsch wasn’t able to field the ball cleanly and second baseman Brian Zeman could not handle the throw, leaving the bases loaded with one out.
“I had too many walks -- that’s what I struggled with -- and not getting ahead of batters,” Wallner said. “Any time you do that, you’re just prolonging innings. I walked a batter or two and next thing you know, they’re scoring runs. That’s probably what lost us the game, honestly, is walks.”
Wallner gave up four earned runs on six hits and struck out 12 batters, while finding a way to end an inning without allowing a run, despite having a runner in scoring position on five different occasions.
Despite his pitch count and a few jams, Kroupa -- Kimball/White Lake’s player-manager -- never felt he needed to pull Wallner.
“His arm is in shape, he’s got the mentality,” Kroupa said. “Of course he was tired -- you can’t throw that many pitches without being tired -- but he wasn’t going to let someone take the ball out of his hands. In his mind, this was his game and he was going to finish it one way or another. We were OK with that, because we know what he’s like.”
Kroupa and Trent Wookey finished with two hits and drove in two runs apiece in a losing effort for Kimball/White Lake. Joe Hieb also had two hits and an RBI.
Sam Caba and Tanner VanDriel had two hits apiece for the Bluebirds. Muth got the win after pitching two innings and allowing one run on two hits.
Austin Wise tossed five shutout innings of relief after starter Bryce Scieszinski pitched six innings, with all four of his runs coming unearned on seven hits. Tabor was able to spread its pitching staff enough that it should be at full strength for the Alexandria/Lake Norden winner at 6 p.m. on Monday.
“We should be just fine,” Sutera said. “They’re going to ice their arms, do some jogging and we’ll be ready to go for the next game.”