Long Sox open Region 2C tournament with 2 wins

A dominant pitching performance by Johnny Pistulka and a key grand slam-stealing grab in right field by Blake Altermatt have the Lamberton Long Sox sitting 2-0 after the first weekend of round robin play in the Region 2C tournament.

Pistulka fanned 13 batters and went the distance in a 1-0 10-inning win over Sleepy Eye Saturday in Lamberton, a game that ended in some controversy. Sunday, Altermatt robbed a grand slam from Leavenworth in the bottom of the eighth inning to help the Long Sox preserve an 8-6 win on the road.

The two wins came in very different ways. Saturday’s victory was in a true pitchers’ duel, as Pistulka and Sleepy Eye starter Andrew Woitas put up zeroes across the board until the bottom of the 10th. They each had their own style. Pistulka, who plays collegiately at Mayville State (N.D.) sat down 13 batters via strikeout, while Woitas predominately used his defense behind him.

“Both threw a lot of strikes and both defenses played very well,” said Lamberton manager Derrick Jenniges, whose team improves to 22-9. “They never got a guy to third the whole game and we only had one guy reach third before the 10th.

“That’s the pitching performance that you need to start this tournament. It was good to get us off to a winning start.”

Each pitcher gave up just six hits in the game and neither team even really sniffed a run until the bottom of the 10th. Woitas started the inning by striking out the first two Lamberton batters, but Lamberton No. 7 batter Mike Wotschke kept the inning alive with a double that got past the right fielder. Catcher Tyler Reiner followed with a walk and designated hitter Jake Sell reached on a fielder’s choice as an attempt to force Reiner out at second was late.

The winning run scored on an infield grounder by Donald Strand. Sleepy Eye shortstop Sean Mathiowetz fielded the ball and tossed it to Scott Salfer at second base for the force, but the umpire ruled that the sliding Sell reached the base first, and pinch runner Seth Guetter crossed home plate for the winning run.

Sleepy Eye’s manager and players were furious with the call, but in the end, Lamberton escaped with the win.

Jenniges looked beyond the controversy and said he was proud of how his players gave themselves a chance to win the game.

“I was impressed with how our guys battled with two outs,” he said. “Mike Wotschke hustled to leg out a double, we had a good at-bat and drew a walk and then put the ball in play to put pressure on their defense. It was great to see the bottom of our order put us in a position to win the game.”

Sunday, Lamberton faced a Leavenworth Orioles team that it had split a pair of games with in the regular season and got a little payback against a pitcher that had stifled them earlier in the year.

“Tonight we faced Andy Cook, and when we played him in June he beat us 3-0,” Jenniges said. “It was big for us to get two runs in the first inning and we felt like we put pressure on him the whole game, even though it didn’t necessarily lead to runs every inning.”

The Long Sox struck early, but did most of their damage late. They were tied 3-all before breaking through for five runs in the top of the eighth. Landon Erickson started the inning off with a double and finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Altermatt’s grab prevented the Orioles from scoring in the bottom of the eighth, but Leavenworth took advantage of a pair of errors to score three runs in the ninth. With the tying run at second base, relief pitcher Dylan Bunting got the last two batters out and earned the save.

Bunting and Altermatt, two recent high school graduates, were just a couple of young players who stepped up big when the team needed it.

“We were able to use a lot of bench players, a lot of younger kids who played during the season, in tonight’s game,” Jenniges said. “The playoffs are a time when the veterans take over, but we had some of our young kids come through in big spots.”

Sam Carlson, a draftee from St. James, got the start for Lamberton and struck out eight batters in 5 1/3 innings. Shane Schoborg struck out four batters in three innings of work and earned the win.

The Long Sox continue round robin action Tuesday at home against Stark.

Sleepy Eye 000 000 000 0-0 6 0

Lamberton 000 000 000 1-1 6 0

SE-Andrew Woitas. L-Johnny Pistulka. WP-Pistulka. LP-Woitas. 2B: SE-Jake Bohnen; L-Mike Wotschke.

Lamberton201 000 050-8 10 2

Leavenworth010 110 003-6 14 5

LAM-Sam Carlson, Shane Schoborg (6), Dylan Bunting (9). LEAV-Andy Cook, Dan Blackstad (8), Mike Hirsch (9). WP-Schoborg. LP-Cook. S-Bunting. 2B: Landon Erickson, Tyler Reiner, Bunting; LEAV-Bill Cook 2. HR: LEAV-Andy Cook.