VFW Gold tops St. James

NEW ULM – Bayler Kraus smacked a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to give New Ulm VFW Gold a 9-8 victory against St. James at Mueller Park on Monday night.

Kraus, who hit eighth in the lineup, was 0-for-4 on the day – with three flyouts to the outfield – before securing the win for Gold (7-4).

“I was hitting the ball hard all game,” Kraus said. “I was feeling it, got up there, took a good hack and it ended up good for me.”

Kraus’ game-winner came one pitch after Alex Fischer hit into a bases-loaded 3-2 fielder’s choice that tagged A.J. Lassas for the second out of the eighth inning. A walk of Cooper Forbrook loaded the bases with one out leading up to Fischer’s at-bat.

Gold led St. James 5-0 after three innings before allowing a four-run fourth inning to cut its lead to one.

Starting pitcher Brandon Mehlhop held his ground until the seventh inning, when he gave up four earned runs with his pitch count maxing out at 116 to erase the “W” next to his name.

A leadoff triple by Derek Meyer was followed by a sacrifice groundout by Ryan Witcraft to cut the lead to 8-5. Louis Fredin got on with a double and was driven in by Levi Sizer, who was walked with the bases loaded to cut the lead to 8-6.

A hard-hit ball by Chase Bottin from the No. 9 slot then sailed over J.T. Hoffmann’s head to drive in two more runs to tie the game at 8-8.

Lassas was sent onto the mound and got the win, having recorded one strikeout in 1 1/3 innings pitched.

Gold coach Derek Wilfahrt said Mehlhop is not one of his team’s usual starters, but that he did a good job in holding his own for most of the way.

“I wanted him to go out there, throw some strikes, eat some innings,” Wilfahrt said. “He pitched a [heck] of a game, should have gotten the win, but at least the team got the win.”

Outside of the fourth and seventh innings, Mehlhop gave up one hit, one walk and no runs.

Offensively for Gold, Lassas and Cooper Yackley tallied three RBIs apiece.

Yackley, who finished 2-for-5 with one run scored in the second, drove in one run in the second before reaching on a high-outside pitch on an 0-2 count to send the ball over the first baseman’s head and drive in two more runs in the third.

Lassas finished 3-for-4 and drove in Mehlhop and Yackley with a double in the second inning and tallied another RBI in the sixth inning before scoring a run himself.

Forbrook also finished 2-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored.

For as ugly as the eventual win could have turned out, Kraus and Co. have been reminded of something Wilfahrt has been preaching a lot this season.

“We need to play hard all game,” Kraus said. “That’s the big key.”

Gold will return to the field on Thursday for the Junior Upper Midwest Classic against Tonka. First pitch is slated for 8:30 p.m. at Johnson Park.

St. James 000 400 40 – 8 10 2

NU Gold 032 012 01 – 9 10 3

Stevens, Sizer (6) and Witcraft; Mehlhop, Lassas (7) and Wellmann.

W – Lassas (G) 1 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

L – Sizer (S) 2 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

ND – Mehlhop (G) 6 2/3 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 0 K

ND – Stevens (S) 5 1/3 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 6 BB, 1 K

Leading hitters – St. James: Meyer 1-4 1 R 1 BB 1 K 3B, Fredin 3-5 2 R 2B, Hillesheim 2-3 2 R, C Jones 1-4 2 RBI 1 R, Bottin 1-3 3 RBI 2B; NU Gold: Yackley 2-5 3 RBI 1 R, Lassas 3-4 3 RBI 1 R 2B, Forbrook 2-4 1 RBI 2 R 1 BB 1 K, A Fischer 1-4 1 RBI 1 R 1 BB 1 K, Kraus 1-5 1 RBI (GW).

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