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MANLIUS — Patience paid off for the Mendota baseball team.
In Monday’s Class 2A Oregon Regional quarterfinal at Bureau Valley, the Trojans drew 11 walks, including five in a four-run first inning.
No. 6-seeded Mendota walked its way to the early lead and then hung on late to top No. 3-seeded Bureau Valley 5-3 for the Trojans’ first postseason victory since 2009.
“They’ve struggled this year with striking out and swinging at bad pitches,” MHS coach Aaron Sester said of his team. “But hats off to the kids because they wanted to come in on Mother’s Day to work on hitting. We had a pretty good practice (Sunday) night, and today they took pitches and waited. They were patient at the plate.”
Mendota’s patience sent it to Thursday’s regional semifinal.
On Monday, MHS shortstop Jaron Robinson started the game with a lead-off walk against Bureau Valley starting pitcher Keaton Wagenknecht.
Robinson took second on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Riley Schuhler, who reached on a throwing error by Wagenknecht that advanced both runners a base. An RBI single by starting pitcher Trae Blumhorst scored Robinson, and Schuhler scored on the play after an error by the center fielder to give MHS a 2-0 lead.
Following a fly out, the Trojans really put on their walking shoes.
Back-to-back walks to catcher Evan Schultz and first baseman Jon Gehm loaded the bases for left fielder Brett Becker, who drove in a run with a third straight walk. Following a strikeout, Wagenknecht walked center fielder Cody Zinke to push across a run and give Mendota a 4-0 lead.
Wagenknecht was pulled after his walk to Zinke. Reliever Kyle Rokey induced Robinson to fly out to end the inning.
MHS scored four runs on five walks and one hit in an inning that saw 10 batters go to the plate.
“We came out a little flat and we’ve kind of done that this year where on Mondays we haven’t played very well,” BV coach John Matlick said. “We didn’t come out throwing strikes. Mendota had one hit that first inning, and that breaks your back.” Despite the shaky first, BV settled in behind Rokey, who didn’t allow a run the next five innings while the Storm’s offense came alive.
A second-inning RBI single by catcher Trevin Kennedy made it 4-1, and a fourth-inning sacrifice fly by center fielder Josh Mead cut the MHS lead to 4-2.
BV (6-15) pulled to within a run in the fifth as third baseman Bryce Hansen reached on an error, took second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a second error and scored on the same error.
After a walk by Blumhorst to the next BV batter, the senior was pulled in favor of freshman Garet Zinke, who escaped a one-on, one-out jam before he also worked out of trouble in the sixth.
The Trojans added some insurance in the top of the seventh when Cody Zinke scored on a BV error to push the lead to 5-3.
Garet Zinke then pitched a scoreless bottom of the seventh to seal the MHS win. Schuhler and Blumhorst each had two hits, while Blumhorst also walked twice, drove in a run and scored a run.
Blumhorst picked up the win on the hill, while Garet Zinke threw 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the save.
With the victory, Mendota (7-19) advances to the regional semifinals to face No. 2-seeded Forreston at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Oregon.
“We’re excited,” Sester said. “I think it’s going to be a good battle. They are a pretty good team and are solid. They field it real well and they have a pretty good pitching staff. They’re young but talented.”
Jared Bell be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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