By Joel Lidstrom
Caledonia’s Joe Petit quashed two would-be Chatfield rallies with dramatic throw-outs of base stealers as the Caledonia Legion baseball team wrapped up its regular season with a 3-0 win in Chatfield.
On the mound for Chatfield was one of the area’s best athletes, Jake Neis, who held Caledonia scoreless through five innings. His fastball overpowered Caledonia’s bats through the first four — only Petit was able to break through with a single in the third — but by the fifth, a bit of loss of control and too many off-speed pitches seemed to erode his control of the game.
Meanwhile, Ryan Frank, Caledonia’s starter, was not immediately sharp as he worked to find the zone with his curveball and keep the batters off their guard with well-placed fastballs. Pitching smart and relying on his defense, Frank got the outs he needed and also took a shutout into the late innings.
But all kudos went to his catcher, Joe Petit. In the third the Chatfield batters hit the ball hard, but right at Caledonia defenders. Neis then laced a two-out single, and on the next pitch the celebrated running back broke for second. Petit leapt from his crouch and threw a perfect strike to Langen who put down the tag. The Caledonia contingent roared with approval.
The fifth inning appeared to shake Neis’ confidence, as his shutout held despite an error at second base, a Seth Twite steal, a wild pitch, and a base on balls. Finally Caledonia had seen its first ray of hope.
Frank seized the momentum change with a quick succession of outs, and Caledonia came to bat in the sixth with the tenor of the game dramatically changed. Immediately Tanner Langen seized a rare opportunity as he struck out but bolted safely to first on a wild pitch. Then in quick succession, T. J. Schultz, Travis Frank and Seth Twite all singled. The rally ended on a “strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out” play, but not before Caledonia had taken a 3-0 lead.
Buoyed by this turn of events, Frank returned to the mound in the sixth. After getting the leadoff batter on strikes, Frank faced his counterpart Neis. Again Neis singled, and again the Chatfield standout sought to pressure Frank with his base stealing. As Frank fired a curveball, a slow pitch that almost invites the batter to safely steal, Petit rose once more — this time firing the ball low and just inside second base. Unlike the earlier play, catcher to shortstop, this throw required second baseman Josh Lampert to move in concert with Leis, make a shoestring catch on the run and apply the immediate tag on a sliding Neis.
Against all odds, the field umpire again pointed theatrically at Neis, made certain that Lampert had retained possession of the ball, jerked his arm and shouted “Out!”
Caledonia players and fans were delirious with joy, and the Chatfield players and fans were done. Frank closed out the sixth with a strikeout and returned for an easy 1-2-3 seventh to secure the complete-game shutout as Caledonia returned home undefeated for the season.
Caledonia 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 3
Chatfield 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0