Crazy run continues for Rabbits in 3A

MARSHALL – The crazy ride just keeps going for the Wabasso baseball team.

In a playoff stand that has included a 10-inning win in the first round and three-straight one-run victories – the second by 12 innings and the third by a rained-out five innings – since dropping to the consolation bracket, No. 6-seeded Wabasso captured a seemingly sane 4-0 victory against Windom Area in the Section 3A consolation finals on Tuesday in Marshall.

“It’s been a really strange way to get to the section championship,” said Wabasso coach Chad Olson. “Being able to do something against a good team like Windom, I’m not even sure how to put that into words.

“It was an unbelievable effort from our pitcher.”

The Rabbits (13-12, 6-10 Tomahawk) were led by junior Josh Altermatt, who allowed five scattered hits – one in every inning except the second – in six innings of work for the shutout pitching victory. They were also out-hit 6-3 in the victory.

Altermatt was relieved by senior Neil Eichten, who allowed one hit and struck out two in 17 pitches in the seventh inning.

The game was a defensive battle during which both teams did not budge until the third inning, when a hard-hit ball by Eichten bounced away from the shortstop in position for an error that drove in designated hitter T.J. Fulton from second base for the first run of the game.

A one-out, stand-up double by Caleb Salfer in the fourth inning served as a bad omen for Windom Area starting pitcher Zack Mellstrom, who then allowed a one-pitch single to William Klann and walked the next two batters to increase Wabasso’s lead to 2-0 and incite his exit from the mound.

Wabasso got out of the inning having scored three earned runs for a 4-0 lead, which tagged Mellstrom as the losing pitcher for Windom Area (13-11, 5-7 Southwest). Mellstrom allowed four walks and two hits with five strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.

“He seemed like a pretty decent pitcher,” Salfer said of Mellstrom. “I think it was just jitters at the end of [his stint].”

With the win, Wabasso avenged an 8-1 second-round loss to No. 2-seeded Windom Area from May 24.

But there was one major difference for Wabasso between its two playoff meetings with Windom Area.

“Last time we played them, we were mostly tired because we had just gotten done playing Adrian in a 10-inning game,” Salfer said. “Everyone was tired after that; it was pretty hot out.”

Wabasso moves on to play top-seeded Springfield in the Section 3A championship game on Thursday at Marshall. Because Springfield is undefeated in postseason play, Wabasso will need to win twice in order to earn a state berth.

The game is slated for 5 p.m. If Wabasso wins, a 7 p.m. game will be played to decide the Section 3A champion.

“We haven’t played [Springfield] real well this year, we haven’t shown them anything either pitching-wise,” Olson said. “We’re happy with the fact that they haven’t seen our best pitching and we’re playing good defense right now, so I expect us to continue to do that.”

Windom 000 000 0 – 0 6 1

Wabasso 001 300 x – 4 3 0

Mellstrom, Quiring (4), Stevens (6) and Nielsen; J Altermatt, Eichten (7) and Salfer.

W – J Altermatt (Wa) 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

L – Mellstrom (Wi) 3 1/3 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K

Leading hitters – Windom: Wiencke 1-2, Syverson 1-3, Nielsen 1-3 1 K, Pfeffer 2-3; Wabasso: Salfer 2-3 1 R 1 K 2B, Klann 1-3 1 R 1 K, Fulton 0-1 1 RBI 1 R 1 BB.

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