High school baseball: Brookings Bobcats fall in opening round of playoffs

(Metro photo)

PIERRE — The Brookings Bobcats’ run in the South Dakota High School Baseball Association tournament ended early as they were defeated in the first round by the Sioux Falls Lincoln Patriots 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday’s loss came as a disappointment to the Bobcats, who won seven of their final 10 games to close out the regular season.

“It’s especially disappointing when we were playing pretty good baseball towards the end of the season,” Brookings coach Mitch McLagan said. “We have three seniors on our team that played their last high school baseball game. So you start looking at all that stuff and it gets to be disappointing because you feel for those seniors.

One of those seniors was Nathan Lease, who got the start in Saturday’s game against the Patriots. Lease was solid, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk with five strikeouts over six innings but the Patriots got on the board first Lincoln Vasgaard delivered an RBI single after an error by Bobcats catcher Owen Schneider.

“I would put Nathan up there with all of the best pitchers in the state,” McLagan said. “He just did a phenomenal job in his junior year and he did a phenomenal job in his senior year. We feel bad for him. He threw really well and he deserved to win even when he didn’t have his best stuff.”

Lease got some support when Breck Hirrschoff tied the game with an RBI double in the top of the third inning but the Patriots took the lead for good in the bottom half of the third inning with RBI singles from Nate Motl and Brycen Mitchell.

“We’re a team that prides ourself on pitching and defense and in this of the year, you’re playing a good baseball team,” McLagan said. “We made some errors earlier in the game and things kind of snowballed for our guys. Tip of the cap to Vasgaard because he really did a good job of keeping us off balance…but we had a few chances with guys on base and just had a hard time scoring runs.”

Austin Clark gave the Bobcats life with his RBI single in the top of the fourth inning but the Patriots’ pitching was too much to complete the rally. After Vasgaard allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts over five innings, Sawyer Tolk struck out five of his seven batters faced over the final two innings to help the Patriots advance to the semifinals.

Hirrschoff went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the loss while Clark went 1-for-2 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored. Schneider and Jack Merritt also had singles in the loss.

After the loss, McLagan mentioned the contributions of fellow seniors including shortstop Zach Struck.

“Zach is the ultimate teammate and just a really, really good person,” McLagan said. “What he does in our dugout, what he means to the guys…it’s quite a bit.”

He also mentioned Justin Cofell, who led the Bobcats in batting average this season.

“He was playing his best baseball at the end of the season,” McLagan said. “He played really, really well this year.”

The Bobcats season is over but there is hope that the success late in the year can carry over to the Legion season.

“There’s a really high talent level with this group,” McLagan said. “We need those guys to continue. This summer brings up new things and you’re playing some different team but it’s pretty much a collection of the same guys. I’m hoping with how well we played late, they’re going to roll into summer with high expectations.”