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Region 14C baseball: Tigers advance

Mark Whiting was brushed back by a pitch late in the regular season. Whiting and the Tigers survived a first-round loss to Bluffton by winning their next two games to stay alive in the Region 14C tournament.

The Miltona Tigers did not make it easy on themselves but they found a way to survive and advance with two wins in three games in the Region 14C tournament this past weekend.

The Tigers got off on the wrong foot with their first loss in more than a month when the Bluffton Braves upset them 6-4 last Friday. That knocked them to the loser's bracket where they had to survive a rainout that pushed their game with Detroit Lakes from Saturday to Sunday morning.

Once they got there, they withstood a scare from the Angels before beating Wadena-Deer Creek 13-0 later in the day.

Miltona ended the season for WDC with an eight-run eighth inning. Sam Steidl and Ross Thompson both had two-RBI doubles in the inning as the Tigers blew open what had been a 5-0 lead.

The Tigers got plenty of production from the top of their lineup. Ryan Emter, Tyler Erickson, Caleb Curry and Steidl, the top four players in the order, combined for nine hits, nine RBIs and seven runs scored. Erickson led the way with three hits. He finished with six safeties in the Tigers' two games on Sunday.

The offensive production made life easy for starter Shawn Krueger against Wadena. The former Alexandria Cardinal standout was dominant through seven innings. He allowed just two hits and a walk on his way to a seven-strikeout performance. Caleb Curry worked a scoreless eighth to secure the shutout.

The runaway victory was much needed for a team that had to sweat out a dramatic comeback by Detroit Lakes in a 7-6 win earlier in the day. The Tigers led 6-1 behind a strong start from Chris Koep before things came unraveled in the ninth.

Koep struck out eight through eight innings but a catcher interference call to start the last inning opened things up for Detroit Lakes. The Angels got some big hits and a lot of help from Miltona to score five runs to tie the game. The Tigers committed three errors in the inning to go along with a hit batter and a passed ball.

Koep ended up not factoring in the decision after being lifted for lefthanded reliever Colin Erickson. Koep was charged with six runs, just two earned, on eight hits and six walks. He struck out nine.

Erickson was able to get his team out of the ninth in a tie game by working out of a bases-loaded jam. He got Trevor Tappe to strike out swinging to prevent any further damage.

The Tigers immediately found an answer in the bottom of the ninth. Caleb Curry singled to lead off the inning before Cody Curry and Jake Leuschke walked to load the bases for Krueger, who came to the plate as a pinch-hitter. He did not disappoint, sending a line drive over the right fielder's head for the game winner.

"The Krueger hit was doubly impressive as he came in cold off the bench and quickly got behind with an 0-2 count," Miltona manager Paul Walsh said. "Shawn was able to foul off several pitches before lacing the winning shot."

Miltona needed that to keep its season alive after an opening-round loss to Bluffton. The Tigers handed the Braves two runs in the third without the aid of a hit after a walk, an error and a wild pitch led to the first run. Cody Geiser added an RBI groundout to make it 2-0. Another walk and an error led to a run in the fifth as Bluffton took a 3-0 lead.

Miltona was never able to recover from that early deficit. The Braves scored two more in the top of the sixth and held on 6-4 after a four-run seventh for Miltona. The Tigers had a chance to add more in the seventh but left the bases loaded in a rally that came up just short. Caleb Curry and Steidl each had two hits to lead the Tigers' offense.

Braves' starter Dustin Geiser kept the Tigers' lineup in check most of the night. He went the distance, allowing seven hits and just two earned runs. He walked three and struck out seven.

John Mohror took the tough-luck loss despite not allowing a hit through five innings of work. He walked four and struck out three before giving way to Urbank-Parkers Prairie draftee Mike Lorine. He worked the final four innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on four hits.

Miltona will have to win two more games to qualify for the state tournament. The Tigers will play the Staples Lumberbats today, Friday, with an 8 p.m. first pitch in New York Mills. A win would move them to a 5 p.m. game on Saturday for a chance to play in the Region 14C title game immediately after that.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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