Final rally falls short for Pender
ALBION — A night after a dramatic rally resulted in a come-from-behind win, Pender just about made its magic again.
It loaded the bases with one out in the final inning against David City, but the defending champions hung on 2-1 to send Pender into the loser’s bracket of the Class C Seniors state baseball tournament Monday night at Leon Nelson Memorial Field here.
Pender was to play Dannebrog-Cairo-Boelus in a first-round rematch Tuesday at 5 p.m. David City will follow against Wilber in a rematch from last year’s championship game.
“You’ve got to tip your cap to David City,” Pender coach Clay Haymart said. “They’re a heck of a team. We have to figure out a way to get back to them ... but we have a tough test tomorrow with DCB. They are solid across the board.”
On Sunday, Pender scored four runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat Wilber. On Monday, Pender was held scoreless until Layne Heese turned a 1-2 count into a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the seventh inning. But a flyout to straightaway center field ended the game.
“I give a ton of credit to Pender tonight,” David City coach Matt Croghan said. “They played really well.”
It was another game of missed opportunities for Pender, which finished with just two hits in the entire game — doubles by Hunter Ferguson and Will Gatzemeyer. Even so, Pender left the bases loaded in the fifth and seventh, and also left runners in scoring position in the first two innings.
“We scratched enough (runs) across the board to get it done tonight, but we better bring our ‘A’ game the rest of the time,” Croghan said.
Chris Rutar, who threw a complete game for Pender’s Juniors in its run to a state runner-up finish, took the loss for Pender. He threw 91 pitches in just four innings, but struck out six and allowed just three hits and two runs, one earned. Devin Hegge finished, throwing the final three innings.
“We needed that. We were starting to run out of pitchers,” Haymart said. “Ninety-one pitches from a Juniors pitcher, and then Hegge coming in and saving arms ... Our pitchers did well.”
Rutar threw 40 pitches in the fourth inning, when he and the Pender defense allowed just one run — but none after David City had loaded the bases with one out after Jack Jakub beat a slow roller for an infield single.
The inning started with a botched grounder, and the lone run came when the ball fell between three Pender defenders for a run-scoring error.
With the bases loaded, Pender third baseman Hunter Ferguson threw out a David City runner at home for the force-out, and then first baseman Aaron Ras fielded a grounder and ran it to the base to end the inning.
“They kept us off-balance with that first pitcher,” Croghan said. “We didn’t hit the ball all that well off of him.”
Pender got the bases loaded thanks to free passes in the fifth but couldn’t take advantage. Jared Tyrell worked a leadoff walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and advanced to third on a dropped third strike. Ras and Ferguson took back-to-back walks with two outs to load them up, but a flyout ended the chance.
The defense came through, allowing only a harmless single for David City in the final two innings, and Pender was able to get going again with free passes in the bottom of the seventh.
Hegge worked a leadoff walk, and two pitches later, Jacob Zuhlke was hit by a pitch.
David City coach Matt Croghan tried switching to Tyler Vavrina, but Vavrina was not allowed to pitch after throwing 44 the day before, so Croghan instead opted for Nolan Hartman to face the top of Pender’s lineup.
Hegge moved to third on a Ras flyout, and Ferguson took a walk to load the bases with one out, setting up the final sequence.
“One thing you’ll always see out of a team from David City is we’ll compete,” Croghan said. “These guys respond to adversity, and they respond well most of the time, like tonight.”
The first run for David City came in the second inning. Kyle Napier singled down the left-field line, stole a base, and scored from second after Daniel Stara’s fly ball was caught by right fielder Heese at the warning track. The throw was on time, but the catcher lost the ball as Stara slid home.
Jakub earned the pitching win for David City. The starter was pulled after 44 pitches in 3 1/3 innings despite a shutout, four strikeouts and two hits allowed. Hartman earned the save, throwing the last inning.
David City 010 100 0 — 2 5 1
Pender 000 000 1 — 1 2 3
WP: Jack Jakub. LP: Chris Rutar. SV: Nolan Hartman. 2B: (PEN) Hunter Ferguson, Will Gatzemeyer. SB: (DC) Tyler Vavrina, Nolan Hartman, Kyle Napier.