Walk-off Winner/Colome: Pheasants stay alive with frenzied two-out ninth-inning rally
Pick-up player Luke Bamberg of Corsica/Stickney snatched victory from Lake Norden with a two-out, two-RBI walk-off base hit in the round of 16 matchup on Wednesday night.
MITCHELL — The top-ranked team in Class B amateur baseball was on the ropes Wednesday night at Cadwell Park.
Trailing by a run with two outs in the ninth and the bases empty, Winner/Colome had no room for error, but over the course of four straight at-bats, the Pheasants maneuvered their way to a bases-loaded situation for their state tournament pick-up from Corsica/Stickney, Luke Bamberg.
The lefty bat delivered, knocking a ball into left field that brought the tying run in, and after a gutsy wave around third, the game-winning run narrowly dodged a tag at home plate to send Winner/Colome to the state quarterfinals with a 4-3 walk-off win.
“That’s what state tournament baseball is about,” said a still-breathless Bamberg after the game. “Just about the time you think you’ve seen it all, something crazy happens. But those are the moments you dream about when you’re a kid — two down, bases loaded and down by one, and that’s about how the dream ends, too, with getting the big hit.”
Perhaps lost in the postgame excitement was the brilliance of Lake Norden pitcher Jordon Johnson. Fresh off a complete game against Freeman in the opening round, the Lakers' ace hurler tossed 8 2/3 innings and kept the Pheasants off balance for every bit of it, putting his team in position to nearly unseat Winner/Colome and its high-powered offense.
“Johnson hits a lot of corners; he’s not going to leave anything out over the plate,” Bamberg said. “… He’s a grinder. You can tell that dude is a heck of a competitor. He hits spots, changes your eye level; that’s a big-time pitcher.”
A first-inning scoring punch for both teams got the contest started, though any momentum provided was fleeting.
Lake Norden’s Jesse VanOverbeke singled to push Mick Tulson home from second base to open the scoring. Austin Calhoon provided the Winner/Colome response by knocking home Dillon Lambley in the bottom half.
From there, pitchers J.J. Farner and Jordon Johnson settled in, allowing just five combined hits through five innings.
In the sixth, Tulson reached third on a ball that slipped past Winner/Colome right fielder Oscar Pravacek, allowing Tony Campbell to score. The very next batter, Mitchell Noem, brought home Tulson on a sacrifice fly to left field for a 3-1 edge.
The Pheasants presented a real threat in the bottom of the seventh, as Zach Harter and Derek Graesser both reach safely with no outs. However, only one run would score in the frame — Harter scored on a Chandler Bakeley single to center field — as Winner/Colome’s outs came via an unsatisfying sequence of popup bunt, shallow infield popup and strikeout.
But those frustrations were all forgotten with the ensuing rally that sent the Pheasants into the quarterfinals.
Winner/Colome will face off with Kimball/White Lake — the lone remaining Pony Hills team, which defeated Flandreau, 2-1, on Wednesday night — in the last quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday.