Team comes together to rally from early deficit
A walk-off in-the-park home run by Derek Nieland will be a memory of the lifetime for those who witnessed Estherville Lincoln Central's 9-8, 10-inning victory over Harris-Lake Park on Thursday.
Nieland, who recently returned to the lineup after several weeks out with an injury, sent the ball over the head of the leaping Harris-Lake Park right fielder Skylar Cuddmore. The ball rolled to the fence as Nieland rounded second. When coach Lee Evans saw the throw wasn't coming in quickly, he sent the speedy senior home. When the throw did come, it wasn't in time or the right place as Nieland crossed home plate standing up.
ELC’s Derek Nieland celebrates his walk-off in-the-park home run against Harris-Lake Park as ELC won 9-8 in 10 innings on Thursday.
EDN photo by David Swartz
"It's been great having Derek back in the lineup as he covers ground well in the outfield and gives us another good stick," said Evans.
However to get to that game-winning run, ELC needed a lot of help after falling behind 7-0 after an inning and a half of play.
ELC was first helped by seven straight walks from H-LP starting pitcher Colin Brons in the bottom of the second. ELC added a sacrifice fly by Matt Burrell and an RBI single by Tucker Milburn to cut the deficit to 7-5 in the bottom of the second.
H-LP replaced Brons with Brady Van Iperen in the inning. Van Iperen would finish the game.
Meanwhile after struggling through the first inning where he walked three batters and gave up four hits to the Wolves, Milburn settled down and lasted to the sixth inning when he was replaced by Billy Snyder. Snyder got the final two outs after Milburn had given up a pair of one-out walks.
But in the top of the seventh, Snyder gave up a lead off walk that the Wolves manufactured into a run helped by a two-out error from the Midgets.
Down 8-5, ELC wasn't ready to call it a night.
Matt Burrell led off with a double went to third when Milburn grounded out to short and scored when Tyler Swanson grounded out to third.
With the bases empty and two outs, Justin Frederick came up with a single. Then Austin Egeland, who replaced Bryce Hansen in the lineup when Hansen collided with an opposing player, hit a chopper to Brons at short. He wasn't able to handle it as both runners remained safe after the error.
Chase Bonner came in to pinch hit for Evan Hansen and hit a grounder down the left field line that scored two runs to tie the game.
Snyder was then hit by a pitch and Adam Reiter drew a walk to load the bases.
But similar to the night before when ELC had a runner at third base against Western Christian, ELC couldn't get the game-winning run across as Nieland flew out to left field.
Over the eighth and ninth innings, ELC came up with a couple of defensive plays to keep the Wolves from winning.
In the top of the eighth with one out, Reiter laid out and made a diving/sliding catch of a ball hit by Jordan Kyle just inside the right-field line. Tanner Hiveley then singled and stole second and Evans elected to intentionally walk Brons, who had two singles previously. The move worked as Eli Ihnen hit a grounder that Burrell grabbed at short and stepped on second for the force.
In the ninth inning, H-LP's Ryan Gembler led off with a single. After Tanner Green flew out to right field, Skylar Cuddmore hit a high chopper toward third base. A leaping Milburn made the catch and throw to first to get the second out. Gembler was left stranded at second when Kade Heikens flew out to Nieland in center.
ELC had a base runner in the bottom of the ninth when Frederick was hit by a pitch and Carsten Bosch laid down a sacrifice bunt to move runner Corey Reeves to second. But Bonner went down swinging and Snyder flew out to center.
In the bottom of the 10th inning, Reiter hit a blooper down the right-field line. H-LP's Cuddmore made a diving grab at the play. The umpires had to confer before ruling it a catch and Reiter out.
"This has been the story all year when we fined ourselves in a hole," said Evans. Tucker hasn't had good starts, but to his credit he battled and made them hit the ball," Evans said. "Then it was good to see Billy get the win as he's pitched some games we could've won."
While neither ELC pitcher recorded a strikeout, Milburn gave up just two hits after the first inning and finished with five walks. Snyder earned the win as he gave up two hits and walked two.
ELC finished with six hits. Nieland was 1-5; with two RBIs; Burrell was 1-2 with a sacrifice RBI and two walks; Milburn was 1-5; Frederick was 2-4; Egeland was 1-4; and Bonner was 1-2 with two RBIs.
ELC (7-10) hosts its tournament on Saturday. Check the box at left for the schedule.