Taking another step forward

COTTONWOOD – On the opening night of the District 7 Division II Legion playoffs on Monday, Cottonwood rode a workhorse performance from starting pitcher Randy Louwagie to a 4-1 win over Dawson.

Louwagie gave up just one run on a Justin Lee RBI single in the top of the first, before settling in. He went the distance and picked up the win, holding Dawson to just three hits and striking out six.

“He’s been our horse for the whole summer, as far as when you need someone that’s going to go the whole seven,” Cottonwood head coach Mike Rausch said. “Randy has the stamina and wherewithal to do the whole seven. When we came out of the sixth and into the seventh I looked at him and didn’t even have to ask. He was like, ‘Yep, I’m going back out there.'”

One of Dawson’s three hits was a leadoff triple by Josh Wager to start the fourth inning. Wager would not score, however, as he was thrown out at home after trying to score on passed ball. Dawson did not advance a runner past first base following Wager’s triple.

For Cottonwood, the offense came from four singles and heads-up baserunning.

Wyatt Schuster scored the ultimate winning run, part of a two-run bottom of the first, after a base hit and a stolen base. Cottonwood tacked on insurance runs in the second and fifth, as Schuster was later hit by a pitch, stole second again and scored on a hard single by Travis Varpness for the fourth run.

“Those were the two seniors from this last year, so that’s where you look for the leadership in Randy and Wyatt,” Rausch said. “Wyatt’s swung a hot bat all summer and stole quite a few bases. The thing I thought we did well tonight was base running. We took the bases when they gave them to us, we had a couple good bunt attempts and did some sacrificing to get to the win.”

Jacob Neu scored the first run in the game for Cottonwood, while Bayley Enstad had the team’s only extra-base hit with a sixth-inning double.

Dawson had originally started Daniel Baldwin on the hill, but a sore shoulder forced him out of the game after 2 1/3 innings and three runs allowed. Wager relieved Baldwin, who took the loss, and gave up one run over 3 2/3 innings of duty.

Neither team committed an error on Monday, putting up sound defensive efforts respectively.

According to Rausch, Cottonwood has made a consistent effort to practice its defense throughout the summer. The work paid off against Dawson and Rausch said that Cottonwood will need to play another clean game against Madison on Thursday if it wishes to get off to a good start in the double-elimination portion of the playoffs.

“If we can play error free, or at least minimize the errors, and not give up the big inning, and if we can make the big plays when we need to,” Rausch said. “That was the big part today, where we had the passed ball behind home plate and made a good play.”

Cottonwood and Madison face off at 7 p.m. in Madison on Thursday, with the loser playing Saturday in Minneota while the winner waits until Sunday.

Dawson100 000 0-1 3 0

Cottonwood210 010 X-4 5 0

D-Daniel Baldwin, Josh Wager (3); C-Randy Louwagie. WP-Louwagie. LP-Baldwin. 3B: D-Wager. 2B: C-Bayley Enstad.