With bases loaded in the second inning, Dixon Irwin had a chance to give the Red Wing Aces some much-needed momentum against Northfield on Tuesday. But, the youngster struck out in the clutch situation.
Irwin knew if he got another chance like that, his fortunes would change.
“I got to learn from it,” Irwin said about the strikeout. “I knew I had to put my foot down and drive one next time.”
That education paid off for Irwin as he hit a bloop single that allowed the go-ahead run to reach home, sparking a three-run seventh inning that propelled the Aces to the second round of the Section 1B tournament with a 7-4 victory against the Knights at the Red Wing Athletic Field.
With the win, fifth-seeded Red Wing swept the best-of-three series against No. 4 seed Northfield.
Irwin’s single sparked the Aces’ lineup as Adam Thygesen followed with a sacrifice fly and Kyle Blahnik came up with a bloop single of his own that turned a 3-3 tie into a 6-3 Red Wing advantage.
“In both games (against Northfield), the bottom of the lineup carried us,” said Aces manager/first baseman Jimmy Bohmbach. Irwin was 2-for-4, Alex Quiding went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored and Mitch Matter went 1-for-4 with a run.
Bohmbach continued, “(The bottom) was our downfall offensively this year, after we got through the first five we would leave base runners on. But they really came through for us (this series).”
The three-run seventh inning countered Northfield’s early edge as the Knights jumped on Red Wing starting pitcher JT Cunningham early, leading 3-0 after the first two innings.
After stumbling out of the blocks, Cunningham locked down Northfield, giving up just one more hit over the next six innings to go with six strikeouts.
“JT usually keeps his pitch count down, but I was worried about that after the first two innings,” Bohmbach said. “But he was able to settle down and threw efficiently.”
With the pitching locked down, the Aces managed to capitalize on the Knights’ miscues. Bohmbach blasted a double off the right-field fence to put Red Wing on the board in the third inning. Then in the fourth, Northfield committed three straight errors that allowed Quiding and Josh Thygesen to reach home and tie the game at 3-3.
Neither team played sharp defensively as Red Wing and Northfield combined to commit seven errors. But, the Aces were able to convert those misplays into runs.
“Like I’ve learned in high school: it’s one thing to have them commit errors, it’s another thing to be able to capitalize on them,” Irwin said.
With momentum firmly in their corner, the Aces were able to put up the three-run seventh, followed by an insurance run by Zach Garner in the eighth on a Quiding double.
With the Knights disposed of, the Aces shift their focus to the top seed in Section 1B: Miesville. With a state berth on the line, the Aces and Mudhens will begin their best-of-three series Sunday at Jack Ruhr Field, followed by Game 2 on Tuesday Aug. 18 at the Ath.
“It doesn’t get any tougher than (Miesville), especially the way they’re playing,” Bohmbach said. “Hopefully we can play like we did the first time against them this year. If we can get runs early and hold onto the lead, that’ll be the key for us.”