Class 3A District Baseball – Round one to ELC
SPIRIT LAKE – It’s only round one, but it’s been a couple years since the Estherville Lincoln Central baseball team has made it to the second game of the playoffs.
On Friday, the Midgets made it look easy with senior ace southpaw Matt Gruhlke striking out 12 Spencer batters while giving up just four hits and three walks.
He also had plenty of run support with fellow senior Marcus Stangl and sophomore Alex Arends both hitting two-run home runs in the 7-2 over the Tigers.
“Matt threw a good game. He gave up the one long ball, but he kept the ball low,” said ELC coach Chuck Fandel. “Then we also got the long balls when we had runners on base.”
The win over Spencer (12-16) sends ELC (21-11) into the Class 3A District 2 final against Storm Lake (21-9), which defeated Spirit Lake 6-2 in Friday’s nightcap in Spirit Lake.
The Midgets defense started well with Gruhlke striking out the first two batters and the third batter grounding out to shortstop Alex Arends.
ELC’s offense went right to work in the bottom of the inning as Keith Fandel knocked a leadoff double to the left-center field fence. A single by Alex Arends sent Fandel to third. Gruhlke then hit a grounder with Spencer taking the force out at second base while Fandel scored.
Marcus Stangl followed with a single.
Courtesy Jake Lange was tagged out at home when Scott Schmidt reached on a fielder’s choice. ELC went up 2-0 though, when Stangl scored as Cody Prather reached on an error.
The Tigers threatened in the second inning as Gruhlke gave up a leadoff walk followed by the Midgets’ lone error on the next batter. Gruhlke came up with strikeouts four and five to get out of the inning.
Over the next inning only one runner from either team reached base.
But in the bottom of the third, Gruhlke led off with a single and then Stangl launched the ball over the left field fence for a 4-0 ELC lead.
In the fifth inning, the Tigers finally scored after a leadoff double and a single. with a run coming home two groundouts later.
ELC came back right away as Gruhlke drew a walk. Courtesy runner Lange took second when the Tigers tried to pick him off at first and the throw went into right field.
Two outs later, Lange scored on a a single to right by Prather.
In the top of the sixth, Spencer scored its only other run, a one-out home run over the left-field fence by Austin Peterson.
Gruhlke followed the home run with strikeouts Nos. nine and 10.
ELC added two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth as Justin Doyle led off with a bloop single to right.
With one out, Arends sent the ball over the right-center field fence the 7-2 lead.
In the seventh, Gruhlke gave up a leadoff walk followed by his 11th strikeout and then a long fly ball to center fielder Chance Moore. A double by Spencer’s Chris Lensing was the last hit of the game as Gruhlke ended it by striking out Taylor Harwar.
At the plate, Arends, Gruhlke and Stangl all went 2-4. Fandel, Prather, Jeremy Hunt and Doyle all were 1-3 and Schmidt was 1-4.
Peterson took the loss for the Tigers. He pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up five hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
Spencer000 101 0 – 2 4 1
ELC202 012 x – 7 11 1
Spencer – Peterson (LP) and Anderson. ELC – Gruhlke (WP) and Doyle. 2B – Sp: Tjebben. ELC: Fandel. HR- Sp: Peterson; ELC: Stangl, Arends.