GROTON – Chandler Larson pitched his way in and out of jams all afternoon long, but none, perhaps, was as big as the sixth-inning situation the Groton senior found himself facing during Saturday’s elimination game at the American Legion Class State B baseball tournament in Groton.
The host squad had see-sawed its way into a 4-2 lead after five innings and Larson needed just six outs to record a complete game win.
Instead, the senior gave up a walk and a single, then a stolen base to put the tying runs in scoring position with no one out.
That might be as sticky as it gets in the world of baseball.
Larson, however, appeared unphased. He got Charley Pravecek to ground out to third for the first out, then got Pierce Nelsen looking.
Now with two outs and the tying run still standing on second base, Winner-Colome ran itself out of contention. Joey Cole took off toward home on the very first pitch of the next at bat. He never made it.
“That’s the third time that’s happened to me this year, actually,” Larson said. “They always try to get me on the windup. Once I started, I just finished my windup and threw it home. Got him.”
“That was a gift,” said Groton coach Matt Locke of Cole’s dash for home. “We’ll take those all day long.”
That play marked the fifth baserunner that Winner-Colome left stranded in scoring position in the game. They never recovered, as Larson, with just 15 pitches remaining on his 105-pitch limit, worked around a seventh-inning hit with two strikeouts and a ground ball out to close out the win.
“We only get two (pitching) appearances, and I didn’t want to burn a second appearance on this game,” Larson said of his mindset going into that final stanza. “I just wanted to make sure we didn’t use any more pitching in this game.”
Mission, then, accomplished.
“Gutty,” Locke said. “Really gutty. Chandler’s been like that since I’ve been coaching. He’s got a lot of heart and a lot of desire, and he always seems to stay positive.”
The win staves off elimination for Groton, who moves on to play Redfield at noon today.
“Hopefully it gives us a little momentum,” Locke said. The boys made plays (Saturday).”
One of those plays came from Tate Larson, who, despite being charged with an error earlier in the game, snared a hot shot ground ball in that sixth inning and fired a strike to first base to keep the runners from advancing.
“That was huge,” Locke said after acknowledging that Groton was willing to concede the one run, but not two. “(Tate) has had trouble this year making throws. We’ve worked on it and worked on it trying to get his mindset back. He fired that one over there like the normal Tate.”
Offensively, Tate Larson finished with two hits in the game, as did Cade Larson. Jonathan Doeden reached twice and scored both times.
Winner-Colome got single runs in the second and third innings, but could not scratch anything else across. Aiden Barfuss finished with two hits, including a triple in the second inning, and a run scored.
Winner-Colome 011 000 0 – 2 5 1
Groton 011 020 x – 4 7 3
Kameron Meiners, Evan Farner (5) and Charley Pravacek; Chandler Larson and Cade Larson. 2B – Groton, Tate Larson. 3B – Winner-Colome, Aiden Barfuss.
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