Cumberland 10, Unity 8
Marty Seeger|Staff writer
BALSAM LAKE – With seven runs in the opening inning the No. 1 seeded Unity Eagles baseball team was flying high to start the regional championship game against the No. 2 seeded Cumberland Beavers. Unity, it appeared, was poised to repeat for the regional championship.
“I couldn’t believe how our bats came out in the first inning. We were hitting the ball everywhere and scoring runs on quality baserunning,” said Unity coach Matt Humpal.
Hunter Pederson was pitching a gem, backed by a defense that was effective for the most part, turning in key double plays when they needed them the most. Yet, in the game of baseball, strange momentum swings happen, and for the Eagles, it happened far later than anyone might have expected.
In the top of the sixth inning, Cumberland finally started making progress on Pederson, and Eagle errors were magnified with every play, totaling four before game’s end. By the end of the sixth inning, Cumberland would tie the game, with the exclamation point being a three-run home run by Payton Rose to make it a 7-7 game.
With Pederson’s pitch count at the WIAA regulated maximum of 100 pitches late in the sixth, sophomore Tommy Teschendorf was left to replace him on the mound. By that time the momentum was on Cumberland’s side.
After a fruitless sixth inning the Beavers came back to the plate, and Kobe Berghammer reached on an error. A sacrifice bunt and a walk put two runners on first and second. The Eagles would get the second out of the inning on a pop out, leaving Reid Olson at the plate for Cumberland. Olson was the starting pitcher in the game and gave up seven runs, one earned, through three innings, but was able to redeem himself in his final at bat. Despite Teschendorf getting ahead of Olson 1-2 on the count, Olson drilled a long fly ball to left-center field to give the Beavers a 10-7 lead, and eventually, the comeback win.
The Eagles would make it interesting in their final at bat, drawing a walk while collecting three hits, including an RBI single by Teschendorf, but a fielder’s choice groundout officially ended the game, and the season, for Unity.
“I felt like we were the Falcons in the Super Bowl. If any of 10 different things would have happened differently, we probably would have won this game. It was the perfect storm for Cumberland,” Humpal said.
The Eagles bats went relatively silent after the first inning. They struck out twice and grounded out in the second and hit into a pair of groundouts and pop out in the third inning.
Cumberland threatened in the top of the fourth inning, loading the bases before the Eagles turned a double play to end the inning. In the bottom half of the fourth inning, Jack Nelson hit a leadoff single and the Eagles drew a walk with nobody out. That led Cumberland to bring in Tyler Landsworth to pitch for Olson, but the Eagles offensive woes continued. They struck out and grounded out twice, including a close call at first base to end the scoreless inning.
“I feel if we could have pushed one across in the fourth, that may have ended the game. Not scoring after the first really gave them hope,” said Humpal.
Landsworth would allow just one run on three hits in the final four innings on the mound, with six strikeouts and two walks.
At the plate, Unity was led by Landon Hendrickson and Cody Ince, who each went 2 for 4. Teschendorf drove in two runs on a hit and Austin Donahue had an RBI double in the game. Joey Schmitz drove in three runs on one hit and scored a run.
The Eagles ended their season 17-5 overall.