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Hawley headed to consolation bracket in Minnesota Class 2A state baseball tournament

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ST. CLOUD, Minn. – The Hawley Nuggets have done a nice impersonation of the Cardiac Kids this season, especially since the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 playoffs.

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Hawley won five straight elimination games, often with late rallies, to advance to the state Class 2A tournament.

Thursday, the Nuggets almost did it again, but a seventh-inning rally came up short.

Hawley lost 5-3 to Kasson-Mantorville at Dick Putz Field.

“We just couldn’t pull it off today,” said Parker Hagen, the Nuggets’ ace right-hander who threw another complete game. “We made a couple errors that really hurt.”

The one that hurt the most was a bad throw on a bunt that allowed the go-ahead run to score. It came after a pair of walks to start the inning, uncharacteristic of Hagen and the Nuggets, head coach Beau Lofgren said.

“It happens,” Lofgren said. “When it comes to championship-caliber baseball, you have to make fundamental plays.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t do that.”

Hawley (18-7) plays at 12:30 p.m. today at Joe Faber Field, just across the parking lot from Putz, in the consolation bracket. The Nuggets play Aitkin, a 7-0 loser to Fairmont. The winner plays for the consolation title at 3 p.m. today at Faber.

Kasson-Mantorville (22-4), the tournament’s third seed and defending state champion, scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to break a 3-3 tie. After Alec Ehlke’s well-placed sacrifice bunt, Austin Yeigh followed with an RBI single to make it 5-3.

“That was huge by Alec,” Kasson-Mantorville head coach Broc Threinen said.

The Komets then had to stave off their own issues in the top of the seventh. Hawley loaded the bases with one out on three walks, then had No. 5 hitter Ben Steichen scorch a line drive to left that was caught by Ehlke.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Lofgren said. “We got here. And, we had a chance to put a crooked number up at the end. Steichen had a nice hit. But Kasson-Mantorville made terrific plays when they needed to defensively.”

The KoMets, who return six starters from their 2013 state title team, took a 2-0 lead in the first. Key blows were RBI singles by Kyle Nichols and Hayden Sheeran.

Hawley notched a run in the second on Kody Crabtree’s run-scoring single to right center.

The Nuggets took the lead in the fourth. Crabtree had another big hit, getting an RBI single to left that the outfielder misplayed. It enabled a second run to score, this one by Drew Thompson. Thompson reached on a single and went to second via Dalton Leaf’s sacrifice bunt.

That prompted a pitching change. The KoMets brought in Sheeran. The senior left-hander didn’t surrender a hit the rest of the way, though he walked five, including three in the seventh.

“He’s been so good lately,” Threinen said. “His last three times out, he’s done a good job.

“(Today), he found a way to battle and get out of it. He wasn’t missing by much.”

Kasson-Mantorville tied it in the sixth on Nichols’ second RBI single of the game.

Chad Clute had a pair of doubles for the Nuggets, who were making their state appearance after taking third in 2008 and fourth in 2009. But the KoMets made several flashy plays, including a pair by shortstop Jayden Prigge. Prigge, an all-stater as a junior, also holds the state career doubles record with 40.

Toss in a diving stop by freshman first baseman Brendan Knoll in the sixth and the KoMets were the better defensive team this day.

“It’s tough,” Lofgren said. “But I’m proud of them, proud of all of ‘em.

“We’re going to have some fun tonight (at the hotel) and try to win tomorrow morning.”

H 010 200 0–3 6 2

KM 200 012 X–5 7 1

Hanson and Kading. Ripley, Sheeran (4) and Collin. W–Sheeran (6-1). L–Hanson (7-2).

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