Tigers advance to 3A finals
MARSHALL – When Springfield met Lac qui Parle Valley earlier in the Section 3A playoffs, the Tigers were left with a bitter taste in their mouths after a 2-1 loss. The double-elimination playoff format allowed them another chance against the Eagles, this time to advance to the section final. They did not let the earlier loss get to them.
“We didn’t feel we played our best game,” Springfield coach Bob Fink said. “I think all the kids believed going into this game we were going to beat them.”
The Tigers’ confidence showed immediately as they jumped to an early lead and cruised to a 7-0 victory at Legion Field.
Leadoff batter Cooper Scheffler started the Tigers off with a hit to right field. LQPV outfielder Dylan Lillejord slipped on the wet grass, and the ball fell just out of his reach for a double. Carter Erickson later hit a double of his own to score Scheffler.
“I think in any game a fast start is huge,” Fink said. “I believe we have the best leadoff hitter in the area. [Scheffler] has been a catalyst for our offense all year.”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead into the third inning that began again with Scheffler reaching base, this time on a single. This time, Zach Mickelson took advantage of the base runner, crushing a two-run home run over the left field fence to make the score 3-0.
“It definitely helps with the guys behind me that get on base and hit,” Scheffler said. “And then there is Mickelson. He likes to tee off every once in a while and take ‘er deep.”
Shawn Anderson took the mound for Springfield and picked up the win with a complete-game shutout. The shutout did not come easy though. He allowed seven hits throughout the game, but he seemed to come up big when it counted. He faced situations with two runners on base in the third, fourth, and fifth innings and each time escaped leaving them stranded.
“Shawn’s a great pitcher,” Fink said. “One of his greatest attributes is that he doesn’t get rattled. He’s a veteran on the mound. He’s the same person no matter the situation, and he’s a competitor.”
Anderson ended the game with six strikeouts, hit one batter, and didn’t walk a single batter.
Scheffler got to leadoff again in the fifth inning. This time he reached into his bag of tricks by working a full count to get a fourth ball. Jacob Menage hit a grounder to shortstop Brandon Hill who tagged second for an out, but overthrew first, allowing Scheffler to score on an error.
“Usually I wait for my pitch,” Scheffler said. “I like to run counts full and find my pitch. I like to walk a lot or get my pitch and rip it.”
Springfield added its final three runs in the seventh, two of them coming off a Cole Milbrath double.
With the win, Springfield advances to play Windom in the final, needing two victories to reach the State Tournament. The game is at 5 p.m. in Granite Falls with a second game to follow if Springfield wins.