The #2 seeded Prior Lake Mudcats took the diamond Tuesday night after squeezing out a tight MBA Region 3C playoff Game #1 win Sunday afternoon in their 5-4 victory over the St. Benedict Saints. In Game #2 of the double-elimination bracket, the ‘Cats would be hosting Highway 13 rival & #6 seeded New Prague Orioles. With a large crowd on hand from both Prior Lake and New Prague to support a game that would send the winners to a coveted MBA Class “C” State Tournament slot on a perfect night for baseball in Prior Lake, the teams gave the faithful a thriller.
Toeing the rubber for the ‘Cats was crafty right-hander Luke “Doc” Weber. The visiting O’s got off to a quick start offensively. In the first, they recorded two hits. Weber, like he did most of the night, wiggled out of a tough situation and got the ‘Cats in the dugout with no runs scored. For the Orioles, 18-year-old southpaw Luke Tupy, lined up against the potent Mudcats lineup. In the bottom of the 1st, ‘Cats centerfielder Jonny Houston led off the inning reaching second base on an error, advanced to third via a stolen base, and then scored on a passed ball putting he ‘Cats up quickly 1-0 after one inning of play. In the 2nd inning, the Mudcats loaded the bases but only came away with one run for a 2-0 score.
From there, The game went into cruise control for a few innings. The Orioles started spraying the ball around Veterans Field and the ‘Cats did not help themselves out defensively in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings. After six and one-third innings, pitcher Weber was pulled for veteran Justin Hackett. Hackett allowed zero earned in two and two-thirds innings pitched. After seven innings the young Orioles (oldest player in starting lineup at 25 years old is Eric Wagner), were up by of a score of 5-2. The ‘Cats bats went silent when (New Prague) high school senior TJ Bergland came in relief for Tupy. Bergland went three innings. He came out for the bottom of the ninth, but the Mudcats had something to say.
The first pitch of the ninth inning hit Mudcat catcher, Ben Kelsey (Michael Walerius pinch ran). Then Mudcats ‘Cats first baseman Jerad Lehrer followed by ripping a double down the first base line; fair just by the width of manager Greg “Fud” Faue’s calves, scoring Walerius. Houston then reached on balls. With runners on first and second with no one out, the ‘Cats best hitter, left fielder Cole Bjorge stepped up, and on the first pitch ripped one to the right side hole of the infield. A great diving play be the O’s second baseman Jacob Mader saved a run, but Bjorge reached and all runners advanced. The O’s then brought in their closer, and second-oldest player in the lineup, 23-year-old James Fuerniss. With the bases juiced with runners and no one out, 2020 DRS batting champion, Corbin Cross, came up. Cross chopped one to shortstop Jake Deutsch, who bumbled the ball and all runners advanced. Lehrer scored cutting the O’s lead to just one, with no outs on the board. Fuerniss then buckled down and got the heart of the Mudcats order to pop-up three consecutive times to end the game.
The Cats came up short 5-4 in an instant classic playoff game at Veterans Field in Prior Lake.
The ‘Cats & PLABA wish the Orioles of New Prague the best of luck in the rest of playoffs and in the state tournament.
Now the Mudcats turn the page and will make the trek down Interstate 35 and hand the ball to the hard-throwing youngster, Alex Wattermann, for a “win and advance to state”, or “lose and go home” game vs the #5 seeded Faribault Lakers. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:30 PM Thursday, August 13th from Bell Field in Faribault, MN.
PL Fans, Get Muddy!
LINK to BOXSCORE 8/9: PL Mudcats 5-4 Win St Benedict Scoring
LINK to BOXSCORE 8/11: PL Mudcats 5-4 Loss New Prague Scoring