August 10, 2022 at 2:50 p.m.
Elrosa catcher Blaine Fischer threw a straight shot to third, touching off a celebration in the Saints’ dugout Aug. 7 at Meire Grove.
The throw was caught by third baseman Peyton Winter, who tagged a Richmond baserunner out. It was the final out in Elrosa’s 4-3 win over Richmond and sent the Saints to the state tournament.
“It is a lot of fun for the young guys who haven’t had a state tournament, and for the veterans to go back for their fifth of sixth state tournament,” said manager AJ Hadley.
Fischer was confident in his throw to third. Earlier in the game, he had picked a baserunner at second base. The ninth-inning pickoff came when Fischer had to block a pitch that got away from him.
“I knew he had a poor lead and late break. I had blocked it (the errant pitch) well,” Fischer said. “It really didn’t get away from me. I knew I had him so I let it fly.”
Elrosa never trailed in the game, but they never really put Richmond away until the final out. They scored runs with timely hits and aggressive baserunning.
The Saints scratched across two runs as Kevin Kuefler, Jackson Peter, Derek Wiener and Gavin Kampsen singled. Matt Schmitz kept the rally going, reaching base and pushing a run across on a two-out error. All game long, the Saints had hits when they needed them.
“The guys have been hitting well this year,” said Hadley. “We have a team batting average of over .300. There’s no one in the line-up you can just get out.
Richmond’s two-run fourth cut into the lead, though Elrosa got one run back with a Will Van Beck RBI single. The Saints took Wyatt Steffensen from the mound in the fifth. Richmond’s Cole Schmitz greeted Ethan Vogt with a home run to retie the game. They had only three more hits the rest of the game.
“He (Vogt) still has the bulldog-wrestling mentality that nobody’s better than him on the mound,” said Hadley. “The adrenaline gets pumping with him out there, and in big times of situations like today, that is Ethan of old.”
The Saints’ offense pushed across one more run in the seventh with a single by Peter, who had three hits in the game, and Wiener. Defensively, the team played errorless ball. Ground balls were turned into outs, and balls hit into the air were caught.
“Give credit to the defense,” said Fischer. “They made plays in the infield and outfield. That helps out the pitchers.”
Richmond opened the ninth with a Cole Schmitz double and replaced him with a pinch-runner. Following a strikeout and flyout, Fischer fired his throw to third to end the game.
“This time of the year, anything can happen. It all comes down to execution making plays, pitchers doing their job and clutch hitting,” said Hadley. “We had a little of all of that this weekend.”
The Saints opened their Regional play with a 3-1 win over Spring Hill. Payton Van Beck, who helped Spring Hill to a state tournament berth last year as a draftee, allowed only two hits and struck out six while walking one and hitting two. He retired 15 of the first 16 batters to face him.
Kuefler’s two-run double in the second gave Elrosa all the runs they needed. He singled and scored in the Saints’ two-run fifth. Ashton Dingmann and Wiener each had two hits. Will Van Beck, Peter, Peyton Winter and Fischer singled.
Elrosa will face St. Martin in the championship game Friday, Aug. 12 in Elrosa. It could very well be a pitching duel as the Martins, with Scott Lieser in the line-up, have only allowed just two runs in their regional games. Both have qualified for state. The loser of the Aug. 12 game plays Aug. 14 for the second or third seed.
The Saints have previously appeared in the state tournament in 1988, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The team is 8-9 in state competition.