Ashby beats Parkers Prairie for a fourth time to clinch West-Central North sub-district title
Ashby clinches a spot among the final four West-Central District teams to see who will go to state in a four-team double-elimination tournament.
An old saying in sports states, “It’s tough to beat a team three times.” But four times in two months is how many wins the Ashby Legion baseball team has over Parkers Prairie.
On Sunday afternoon, Ashby picked up its second win over Parkers Prairie in as many days. After a 4-0 Saturday win over the Pride to advance to the West-Central North Sub-District championship, Ashby overcame an early deficit to bring home the title by a score of 6-4. Parkers Prairie battled its way through the elimination rounds to earn a spot in the title game.
“It was a good win, and it’s always tough to beat a team like this four times,” Ashby head coach Dwight Walvatne said. “(Parkers Prairie) is a team that fights all the way until the end, and we knew that. That’s how these teams are. They will never give up, and they almost got us because of it.”
Ashby turned to Hunter Norby on the mound to close out the tournament without a loss. However, Parkers Prairie scraped an early run across home plate in the top of the first inning.
Ashby didn’t waste any time mustering up a response when Torin Olson doubled to lead off the bottom of the first. He came around to score on Noah Johnson’s RBI single. Johnson would eventually score on a fielder’s choice.
“We knew we needed the top of our order to come through and get that run back,” Johnson said. “We wanted Hunter to settle down. I think those runs helped him out a bit.”
Parkers Prairie wasted no time in getting the run back. Wyatt Murray got in scoring position with a base hit before scoring on a fielder’s choice.
Norby is one of several Ashby pitchers that ate up innings during the high school and Legion seasons, but Parkers Prairie put him in a few jams on Sunday. Preston Yohnke and David Revering led off the top of the third inning with a single and a walk before the Ashby defense made plays in the field to prevent the go-ahead run.
“Our defense has been really good all summer,” Johnson said. “It comes down to knowing the situation and making the right play. That’s something we’ve been taught forever.”
In the bottom of the third inning, Ashby added to its lead when Johnson scored on a fielding error. Carter Spangler drove in another run to make it 4-2.
The lead didn’t last long as Parkers Prairie tied the game in the top of the fourth inning on an RBI single from Josh Helling. Carson Spangler relieved Norby on the mound and would go on to throw 3.1 shutout innings.
“We’re comfortable with him because he’s going to go out there and throw the ball over the plate,” Walvatne said. “He’s got a pretty good curveball, and he can spot his fastball. There was no hesitation to go to him when Hunter got jammed up there in the fourth inning.”
The top of the Ashby order provided all four runs up until the bottom of the fifth. That was when Brady Christenson delivered what Noah Johnson called “His biggest hit of the summer.”
With runners on second and third, Christenson drove the ball over the left side of the infield to give Ashby a 6-4 lead.
“He’s one of the youngest kids on this team, and he put a good swing on the ball,” Johnson said. “Those were the two winning runs. You have to get those moments from the entire lineup if you want to keep winning. I’m really happy for him.”
Ashby will take on Granite Falls on Friday night at Minnewaska Secondary, with the winner of the Glenwood-Lowry and Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunberg teams waiting on Saturday. The four-team double-elimination tournament July 23-25 will punch one ticket to state. Johnson is hoping to cash in on that opportunity in his final legion season.
“I already graduated last year,” Johnson said. “This is the last time I get to do this. Now is the time. I think we have a good shot.”