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South Ridge title defense hangs on championship sweep

Over the last four years the Section 7A baseball tournament has run through South Ridge. The road this season got a whole lot tougher on Tuesday when the Panthers lost their first game of the day, 6-4, to Cherry, sending them into the losers bracket.

“Noah Sundquist is a good pitcher and he pitched well against us,” said South Ridge head coach Aaron Weber. “He kept us from getting any momentum and he pitched well enough to win that game.”

Following the loss, the Panthers faced Ely in the nightcap Tuesday. South Ridge defeated the Timberwolves, 5-3, to keep their hopes alive in the double-elimination event.

Against Ely, the Panthers scored four runs in the first inning when they sent 10 batters to the plate and built a 4-0 lead.

“We had more hits in the first inning in that second game than we did in the entire first game,” Weber said. “After we got the lead, we seemed like we let down a little bit and then they started coming back on us.”

After the first inning it looked like the Panthers were headed for a blowout win, but the Timberwolves scratched back and cut the lead to 5-3. Then things got really interesting as Ely loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the seventh.

That’s when Weber brought in his closer, Wyatt Olson. Olson proved to be nothing short of spectacular as he got back-to-back strikeouts and an infield pop up to end the threat and give the Panthers the win.

“Wyatt’s a gamer,” said an excited Weber after the game. “He likes to pitch with guys on base and he always seems to come through when we need him and, boy, did we need him at that moment.”

The win moves the Panthers back into the championship game Thursday against Cherry in Virginia. If the Panthers want to make their fifth straight trip to the state tournament, they will need to beat the Tigers twice.

“Despite having to win twice, I like our chances,” said Weber. “By far their best pitcher is Sundquist, but I think our depth will come into play at that position. I like the guys we have.”

South Ridge gained the semifinal round after earlier picking up a 15-1 win in the second round over Deer River, and that was followed up by a third round 11-0 win over Ely.

Against Deer River, the Panthers held a 4-1 lead entering the bottom of the fourth inning when they exploded for 11 runs to secure the win. Christian Pretasky and Tony Lisic both bashed out two hits with Lisic adding four RBIs and Pretasky three RBIs. Ben Pretasky, Josiah Deloach and Gavin Willeck combined for the pitching win.

In the 11-0 win over Ely, Christian Pretasky stayed hot with the bat by pounding out three more hits and adding three RBIs. Pretasky also pitched his team to the win by throwing four innings and not allowing a run, striking out eight and giving up only one hit. Wyatt Olson also pitched in on the mound one inning.

Earlier in the tournament, both Cromwell-Wright and Carlton/Wrenshall lost in the opening round and were eliminated from further play. The opening round is single elimination. Barnum received a first-round bye, and then in the second round they defeated Silver Bay 19-9 on May 30. On Thursday, June 1, the Bombers fell 5-4 to Cherry and then lost to Silver Bay 8-3.