MANKATO — Junior catcher Matthew Helget’s wind-aided RBI double capped a three-run, sixth-inning rally Saturday at Franklin Rogers Park to lift Mankato Loyola to a 7-6 win over Cleveland in the championship game of the Crusaders’ own tournament.
Loyola, which blanked Faribault Bethlehem Academy 7-0 in Saturday’s opener, found itself trailing 6-3 after the Clippers (9-5) scored three times in the top of the fifth behind four base hits and a walk. Alex McCabe’s two-run single off relief pitcher Matthew Gartner was the key hit while Bryce Novak also bounced a run-scoring single through the hole.
After the Crusaders (14-3) trimmed the deficit to 6-4 in their fifth at bat, walks to Andrew Kohr and Nick Stoffel set up a one-out threat an inning later. An errant pickoff attempt allowed Kohrs to score on a wild pitch before Caleb Fogal bounced a run-scoring double into the right-field corner to tie things. Helget then dropped a double into right field for the game-winner.
“It all came down to defense and it seemed like we made most of the catches in that brutal wind,” Loyola coach Jeff Reese said. “We’ve been a pretty good hitting team all year and with this pitch count Matthew Gartner really came through for us.”
Gartner, who pitched a 1-2-3 final inning in Game 1, got roughed up at first in replacing senior right-hander Ben Ellingworth before settling in to retire seven of the final eight hitters.
Ellingworth allowed four runs on six hits over 4 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking three. Gartner gave up two runs on five hits while recording one strikeout and walking none.
Cleveland grabbed a 2-0 advantage in the second when starting pitcher Danny McCabe and Alex McCabe punched through RBI singles. The Crusaders pushed across a run in the second behind two walks and singles from Owen Casteel and Matthew Kujawa.
After a four-base outfield miscue made it 3-1, Casteel’s double into the left-center field gap, along with base hits from Kujawa and Ellingworth, tied things in the fourth.
“We played together as a team and we all did our part,” said junior first baseman Casteel. “I was able to get a couple of hits and my teammates drove me in. It was a fun game.”
Both teams came up with a defensive gem in the contest with junior second baseman Sam Sernett delivering a nifty diving snag for the Crusaders with the bases loaded in the fifth and freshman shortstop Carter Dylla returning the favor for the Clippers in the sixth.
Casteel led a 10-hit attack with three while Kujawa ripped a pair of run-scoring singles.
“With playoffs right around the corner it was nice to get two wins today,” Ellingworth said. “I wasn’t locating well today so I just kept trying my best to throw strikes. Our resilience has been good all year and we showed that again today.”
Novak led the Clippers with three hits while Danny McCabe, Alex McCabe and Shane Rogers had two apiece.
“We came out with our bats on fire today,” first-year Clippers’ coach Bill John said. “We didn’t get things to fall our way even though we had a lot of kids step up and do their jobs. We’re having a good year and have had a lot of guys come through better than expected.”
Ellingworth, Stoffel and Cohrs each laced two hits in the 7-0 victory over Bethlehem Academy. Fogal struck out six, hit two batters and walked one in giving up six hits over six innings.Cohrs scored two runs and drove in another while Stoffel added an RBI single.
Loyola hosts Sleepy Eye Tuesday and Cleveland entertains New Ulm Cathedral Monday.