'Cancer, get out of here!' night ends with Owatonna walk off
A night that was dedicated to helping raise awareness for one of their own, the Owatonna High School baseball team certainly made it exciting.
Junior Abe Havelka, who was coming off Tuesday’s two-hit gem, had a little bit more magic up his sleeve. Only this time, it was with his bat. After smashing a hard single to centerfield, Havelka managed to slide just under the tag to steal second.
Enter fellow junior Zach Mensink.
On a 1-2 count with Havelka on second and two outs, the junior hammered a fastball that was misread by Falcons right fielder Alex Rendler to drive in the winning run as Owatonna managed to recover from a blown two-run lead in the top of the seventh inning to give the Huskies a 5-4 win over Faribault Thursday at Darrts Park.
“I was surprised that he hit me with a fastball, especially three in a row,” commented Mensink after Thursday’s win. “Luckily Abe (Havelka) got the stolen base at second and I put in play.”
Owatonna’s skipper Tate Cummings also added that big moments seem to not faze his team.
“With two outs, we make a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh, Abe (Havelka) hits a really hard shot right up the middle for a base hit, steals second and really sets the stage for Zach Mensink,” he added. “Down in the count, made an adjustment and just hits a rope out to right field that turned the right fielder around.”
While it was certainly an exciting finish, there was a chance that Owatonna wouldn’t even need to bat the final half inning. The Huskies held a 4-2 lead for much of the contest prior to senior Kodey Kiel coming in for the save attempt. He allowed two runs to tie it up after a pair of Falcons runners were moved into scoring positon due to wild pitches. He would record the final two outs of the inning by strikeouts.
After surrendering two runs in the top of the second to trail 2-1, Noah Budach’s lead off bunt seemed to spark Owatonna bats just enough. The speedy junior would score on a sacrifice fly by Kiel to tie the game at 2-2. Kiel finished the contest 0-2 with two RBIs.
With the bases loaded, starting pitcher Brady Schuster delivered a single to left, scoring two. Despite six Huskies reaching base by walks, Owatonna struggled to generate any momentum, leaving seven on base with two of them being in scoring position.
A special moment prior to the top of the third inning was when OHS alum Matt Ratzloff and his family took the field to be recognized as he continues his fight with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Thursday's game was "Cancer, get out of here!" night. Afterward, Ratzloff said that what took place at the stadium Thursday night probably wouldn’t happen in a larger community.
“It’s awesome,” he added. I think that’s the thing about growing up in a small town, is the comradery, everyone supporting you and having your back.”
As for Owatonna's defense, Schuster was able to rebound after allowing the first two runs. In 4 1/3 innings of work, he allowed just two runs on four hits and struck out three. There were a few times that he would get into a jam only to be bailed out by great defense behind him. Despite rebounding to throw a fairly controlled game, Owatonna opted to use a total of four arms in the contest, attempting to keep the pitch count in check. Although only three registered an offical inning pitched.
Since he was on mound when the game was tied 4-4, Kiel would receive the win for Owatonna. He moves 3-0 on the year and has an ERA of .75.
FHS 0 2 0 0 0 0 2 4 7 1
OHS 1 0 3 0 0 0 1 5 5 4
WP: Kiel 1 1/3 IP, 3K, 1ER
Batting: Budach 2-4, Alstead 1-3, Kiel 0-2, Havelka 1-2, Mensink 1-2, Schuster 1-2, Staska 0-3, Deason 0-3, Westphal 0-3.