The Plankinton Bankers and Dell Rapids Mudcats were locked into a fast-moving, pitcher’s duel on Wednesday.
But the middle innings cost the Bankers and lifted the Mudcats to a 14-1 win at the Class B state tournament at Cadwell Park. Dell Rapids (13-6) plays Groton Locke Electric at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday in the second round.
Wednesday’s matchup featured two state quarterfinal teams from 2019. The teams settled in for a tight contest through four innings, with Dell Rapids’ Dalton Allen and Plankinton’s Travis Gant allowing just one run. However, the Mudcats plated 13 runs through the next four innings to seize control and end the game on the 10-run rule in the eighth inning.
“Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting that,” Dell Rapids manager Jim Wilber said. “Travis Gant is a good pitcher. We just barreled up some balls and we just had our hitting clothes on today.”
Allen had his pitching clothes on, too. The right-hander threw seven efficient innings, striking out eight batters, allowing three hits and one earned run on 74 pitches.
“He came out and just set the tone for us,” Wilber said. “He had a real solid performance. He was using the breaking ball and his fastball. He was keeping the ball down. He was just in control all night.”
Allen was working with a 1-0 lead through four innings. But the Mudcats bats provided him with plenty of run support the rest of the way.
In the fifth inning, Jimmy Bauer hit a sacrifice fly and Chad Hunt gave Dell Rapids a 3-0 lead after stealing home from third base.
After Allen retired three more batters, Dell Rapids erupted for five runs on five hits in the sixth inning. Grant Olson recorded an RBI single and the Mudcats plated four runs with two outs. Dan Gacke and Hunt hit RBI singles, while Bauer drove in two more runs for an 8-0 lead.
“The offense putting up that many runs is great,” said Allen, who was a key pitcher on Augustana University’s 2018 national championship team. “We can win a lot of ball games if we keep playing like that.”
The Mudcats plated two more runs in the seventh inning for a 10-0 lead. Plankinton’s Cole Knippling ended the shutout with a solo home run off the scoreboard over the 340-foot right field fence.
“I laughed when we were doing BP at the start of the day and I said, ‘I think I’m going to hit one off of the scoreboard,’ just joking around,” Knippling said. “It’s kind of funny to actually do it. I really wanted a fastball up and he finally gave me one. Only took him three at-bats.”
Knippling’s solo shot momentarily stopped the bleeding. Mark Houck smacked a three-run double and Olson added an RBI single. Reliever John Spaeth retired the side in the bottom of the eighth to finish off the game in eight innings.
“It is a bummer,” Knippling said. “You knew when you drew the Dell Rapids Mudcats it’d be a tough matchup. They’re really good. They can hit the ball. They have good pitchers. We struck tight for a little while, but you've got to put nine innings together and we had a hard time getting outs.”
Gant took the loss. He allowed six hits, seven earned runs and struck out six batters in his 5.2-inning start. The Bankers finish the season 15-4.
The Mudcats will now turn their attention to Groton, which picked up a 7-4 win over the Madison Broncos on Wednesday.
“It always seems like that first game you get by it and the nerves calm down a little bit,” Allen said. “Then you kind of go play baseball and see what happens from there. We know we will get another good game here on Sunday. We have to be ready to go.”