MANKATO — Each inning, it seemed like Springfield was threatening to score.
The Tigers had a single hit in each of the first five innings, but there were some timely strikeouts by Logan Carlson, a nice play by shortstop Matthew Gartner and a spectacular diving catch near the right-field line by Tyler Skinner.
“I thought after one of those great plays, we’d get something,” Loyola senior Caleb Fogal said. “But it didn’t go that way. We got some runners on at the end, but we couldn’t do much with them.”
Finally, Springfield scored five runs in the sixth inning, only two of which were earned, and defeated the Crusaders 5-0 in the winners’ bracket final Saturday at steamy ISG Field.
“We were living on the edge,” Loyola coach Jeff Reese said. “All of sudden, things opened up for them, and we started to throw the ball around a little bit. That’s not like us.”
The Tigers stranded eight runners through five innings against Carlson, the Loyola starter who struck out four in the first two innings.
However, in the sixth, a leadoff single set up an RBI single, and a second run scored on a wild pitch. An error and a passed ball allowed two more, and a solid double to the gap made it 5-0.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders didn’t do much against hard-throwing Mason Leonard. He struck out 11, and Loyola didn’t have a hit until Fogal’s infield single in the fourth.
“It’s tough when you don’t see a guy who throws that hard in the regular season,” Fogal said. “He hit his spot, threw the curveball when he needed to. He was tough.”
Finally, the Crusaders, who scored six runs with two outs in the seventh inning of Thursday’s 10-6 win against New Ulm Cathedral, got some traffic in the seventh.
Fogal had a sharp single to right, and Jake Sizer walked. Reliever Tori Helget came on and got two outs before beaning Jake Eichers to load the bases. Helget got the final out on an infield pop-up.
“The guys never give up,” Fogal said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who love to play. They have heart.”
The Crusaders will play against Monday at 7:30 p.m. at ISG Field against whichever team makes it through the consolation bracket. Springfield moves to the championship game on Thursday at ISG Field.
“We’ve got to win three more games,” Reese said. “Matthew Gartner will pitch the next game, then we need to use a couple other guys who might not have as much experience. But they can throw. Hopefully, we get to that spot.”
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.