Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Outlaws outlasts rival Bobcats for bid to State

Bitter rivals Burnsville and Savage battled out its third consecutive 3-2 thriller last night at Elko’s Frederickson Field.

The intense rivalry was magnified as the winner of last night’s game would earn a bid to the Class B State Tournament. And the winner ... by mere inches on a play at first to end the game ... was the Outlaws.

“I thought it was really close,” said Savage manager Travis Peterson about a bang-bang play at first base to end the game. “I thought he was out, I wanted him to be out, but if it was the right call? I don’t know, I’m not an ump.”

The play in reference was with two outs in the top of the ninth and Bobcats centerfielder Robby Wiens on third base. Burnsville’s David Keeney, one of its speediest runners, hit a grounder to third, substitute Savage infielder Dusty Otto handled the roller and fired to first to end the game - but not without controversy.

The call at first was immediately followed by severe scrutiny from several Burnsville team members and its fan base (many of whom were sitting in bleachers behind the fence near first base).

On the flip side, Savage’s Peterson was quick to credit his back-up infielder’s effort on that play.

“To go into a game ice cold and have a ball hit your way in that situation, that’s tough,” remarked the Savage skipper.

Mere minutes after the game, Burnsville manager Robby Wiens - obviously frustrated over the call - refused to comment on the play. His few remaining Bobcats teammates followed suit.

With the win, Peterson’s Outlaws (13-4 league record, 31-8 overall) earned a repeat trip to the Class B State Tournament, where last year they finished in 5th place.

Peterson credits Savage’s consecutive Section 5B playoff wins - last night and Sunday afternoon’s 3-2 win over Eagan (which combined have clinched them a spot in State) to his team’s strong pitching and defense.

“Phenomenal defense,” said Peterson following last night’s game, “we said before the [playoffs] started that it comes down to pitching and defense, we picked two really good games to play really good defense.”

Travis Pugliese pitched a complete game shutout Sunday versus Eagan. Savage played error-less defense in both games, including a key play by centerfielder Dylan Peterson in the top of the eighth inning last night.

“Dylan made a phenomenal catch,” remarked manager Peterson about his younger brother’s fence-crashing grab to rob Burnsville’s Charlie Dubanoski of an extra-base hit to lead off the eighth.

“If that ball were six feet over the wall, I think he was going to go right through it to try and catch it,” further exclaimed manager Peterson. “We needed that, that’s a game-changer right there.”

Dylan Peterson’s play enforced the Outlaws 3-2 lead that would eventually be sealed up by Savage relievers Brandon Walczak and Tony Peterson.

Outlaws starter Ben Turnwall merits a lot of the credit as well.

The burly righthander allowed a second-inning homerun to Burnsville’s Cory Eul that tied the game; however, Turnwall would settle in afterward and pitch well enough to earn the win.

In the second, after a walk to Bobcats first baseman John Loeffler, Eul turned on a 2-0 fastball and planted it beyond the fence in left-center.

From there, Turnwall struck out Burnsville’s Keeney as the first of eight consecutive Bobcats batters he would retire. Turnwall finished his night allowing just the two runs through six innings of work.

Savage’s Tayler Rahm helped back Turnwall’s outing in the bottom of the sixth with a clutch two-out single to left off Burnsville reliever Adam Emery.

“I was down 0-2, so that’s never good,” said Rahm describing the at-bat, “I worked it back to 2-2 and was actually looking for a fastball, (but) it was a change-up, I was a little out in front but I got enough of the barrel on it to put it out there to left.”

The hit scored a hustling Dylan Peterson from second as Bobcats leftfielder Cory Eul’s throw sailed wide to the right of his brother Chad Eul (Burnsville’s catcher).

Rahm’s RBI would stand as the game-winner as Savage pitchers Walczak and Tony Peterson combined for three very strong innings to finish the game.

Turnwall was awarded the win, Walczak posted three strikeouts in two perfect innings of work for the hold, and Peterson (who played the first eight innings at third base) worked around a lead-off walk to pick up the save.

“[Turnwall] pitched a really good game” said manager Peterson, “he threw strikes and made [Burnsville] swing the bats, exactly what we needed out of him.”

“I credit catcher Ben Braaten, I didn’t shake him off the whole game,” said Turnwall, praising the pitch calling of his receiver.

The hefty hurler was decently content with his outing and is very happy his team clinched a berth in the State Tournament. However, Turnwall also admitted to feeling a bit tight and nervous early on, and he feels he can definitely do better.

“I think all-around it was a great game for our whole team,” said the 23-year-old Burnsville native, “[But] personally, I can pitch better. I had to settle the butterflies down a bit, but we’ll get them [out of the way] at State.”

Savage will ride its ticket to the State Tournament in 10 days, when the annual event begins in Willmar and Bird Island August 20, but the Outlaws will also play for the Section 5B championship on Thursday night.

Peterson’s team could once again be facing their vaunted rivals (Burnsville) for the Section title.

The rivalry would be renewed once again as these two teams finished first and second in the Cannon Valley League this season, share the same home field, and have played three consecutive hotly contested 3-2 games - Burnsville defeated Savage by that score in their previous two meetings (July 22 and 29).

To get to Thursday, and having another shot at Savage, Wiens’ Bobcats will first have to overcome their frustration and defeat either Eagan or Elko tomorrow night.

Upset-minded Eagan (9-8 CVL, 15-15 overall) faces the 2008 Class C champion Express (8-4 CVL, 31-8 overall) tonight, with the winner advancing to face Burnsville. The winner of that game - tomorrow night’s - will also earn a trip to State.

Notable individual efforts:
Savage Outlaws
~ Ben Turnwall: W, 6 IP, 2 ERs, 5 Hs, 8 Ks, 2 BBs
~ Taylor Rahm: 2-for-5, R, RBI (GM-WINNER)
~ Brandon Walczak: 2 IP, 0 Rs, 0 Hs, HOLD
~ Tony Peterson: SV, 1 IP, 0 Rs, 0 Hs

Burnsville Bobcats
~ Cory Eul: 1-for-3, BB, R, HR, 2 RBI

**Note: I was a roving reporter for this game. I took score, made notes and shot several photos throughout the game. I also conducted three postgame interviews and shot photos two of the game's best players - Savage's Ben Turnwall and Tayler Rahm. The pictures featured in this article are - from top to bottom - pre-game manager's meeting (Savage's Peterson, Burnsville's Wiens, with the umpires and CVL commissioner Doug Johnson), Burnsville's #22 Cory Eul touching home plate after his home run in the 2nd inning, Savage's Tayler Rahm on third base (w/ Burnsville 3B Charlie Dubanoski behind him), Savage's Ben Turnwall delivering a pitch in the 2nd inning, post-game photos of Turnwall and Rahm.

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