Monday, September 1, 2014

New Ulm shocks Jordan, advances to Class C championship

Jordan, MINN.

By Jeff Barthel

It was a battle of Brewers  last night at Jordan’s Mini Met ballpark.

The Jordan Brewers led the game through eight-ninths of the way. But it was an incredible five-run ninth by the New Ulm Brewers that sealed a 5-3 victory and advanced its team to the Class B amateur baseball state championship game this afternoon in Jordan.

““Unbelievable, it was the most hyped I’ve seen our team,” New Ulm starting pitcher Wade French said. “To come back in that game tonight, you know you can do it, but when it actually happens it’s just a great feeling.”
New Ulm SS Judd Davis

French was a big part of the ninth-inning rally and an even bigger part on the mound.

Following a two-run homer by Jordan’s Scott Hollingsworth, French found his groove. The right-hander threw eight strong innings, allowed three runs (two earned) and was rewarded with a well-earned win in the end.

New Ulm veteran and French’s catcher, Brady Ranweiler, described his battery mate’s effort.

“In the first inning he made a couple mistakes, he left some balls up and [Jordan] capitalized on them,” Ranweiler said. “But when he settled in, he was throwing his curveball, slider and change-up for strikes. His fastball wasn’t missing either. And when you can get four [pitches] over for strikes, he’s tough to hit.”

Jordan bats concurred, as their Brewers struck out nine times against French.

Inning after inning, French continued to hold Jordan at bay while his team’s offense could not scratch out a single run. And when New Ulm finally made it’s run, it was French who keyed the big rally with a booming double.

“I was just trying to get on base … I got a nice pitch and put a good swing on it,” French said. “When we got the bases loaded and nobody out, I knew we could do it.”

New Ulm 2B Landon Rewitzer
New Ulm’s Jason Shaul began the Brewers ninth inning rally, deadening a beautiful bunt toward third. Then came French, who pounded a line drive to left that got past Jordan outfielder Mitch Ries. The double put runners at second and third, lit up the New Ulm contingent and suddenly shifted the pressure onto Jordan and its pitcher Joe Lucas.

Lucas was removed after French’s hit in favor of Hollingsworth, who came in from right field. Hollingsworth couldn’t answer the bell, however, as he plunked New Ulm’s Landon Rewitzer to load up the bases with nobody out.

Then the runs poured in.

Shortstop Judd Davis sliced a single up the middle to score a run. Then, following a groundout to the pitcher that prevented the tying run, Brewers rightfielder Garret Fischer came up with a line drive singled to left. Drew Pfaff scored easily on the play, while Davis sped around third and slid into home with the go-ahead run.

“I give a lot of credit to Garrett Fischer,” manager Al Flor said after the game. “He came in [to the dugout] before the ninth inning and he said ‘whatever we do, however we go to the plate, we always want to get to the next guy.’”
New Ulm RF Garret Fischer

Fischer’s message caught on with his team and he was able to capitalize on it himself with his clutch hit.

New Ulm plated one more run to make the score 5-3, before Mitch Kelly came in for the bottom of the ninth to put a bow on his team’s victory and earn the save.

It was a team effort, but the star of the game had to be French. Flor said he felt cautious about French prior to game time because he hadn’t pitched in a long time.

It’s been Kelly, who’s been the team’s ace all season, but it was a hidden gem French who was polished off to play the lead role in last night’s game.

“We were a little worried because [French] hasn’t thrown in about a month,” Flor said. “But his slider, when it’s on, it’s one of the best …  Mitch Kelly been our No. 1 all year, but you could say French was our ace in the hole today.”

New Ulm’s victory means it will advance to its first state championship game since 1980, when the team defeated Dundas for the Class B title.

The Brewers will vie for the championship against the winner of the Sobieski/Faribault game, which was postponed in the third inning last night due to rain. The game will be continued at 11 a.m. today at Jordan with the championship game beginning shortly after.

Ranweiler and Flor have the belief in this team and feel the time is now.

“This is the best team I’ve ever been around,” Flor said. “Gelling-wise, we’ve got a good crew of kids, good veteran presences and the pitching has showed up well.”

“I’ve been involved with New Ulm baseball for 20 years and right now we’re playing the best baseball I’ve ever been a part of,” said Ranweiler, the team’s elder statesman – at 37 years of age.

“I’ve just got the feeling that the momentum we have this year … that we’re going to figure out a way to win.”

* Photos for this story were contributed by Chandrasekar Umathurappan. Thanks, Uma!

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