Grafton spoils Beulah’s comeback
BEULAH – Baseball players dream of the big moment.
Field lights beaming down, it’s the last inning of a big game. Score’s tied, pressure’s on and it comes down to them. When they pull through with a piece of clutch hitting to send their team to victory, it’s a moment they’ll tell their grandkids about.
Grafton second baseman Jaime Villarreal now has two of those moments, and they’re eerily similar.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Villarreal beamed a fastball to center field to score Sam Heuchert and lift the Spoilers to a 6-5, walk-off victory over the Beulah Cyclones in the second round of the American Legion Class B State Tournament on Thursday night at Goldmann Field.
“As a player, you want to be that guy,” Villarreal said. “It’s one of those times that everything slows down and everybody’s looking at you. I want to be that guy and luckily I got a hit.”
Grafton (26-8) now heads to a third-round matchup against Cando at 7:30 tonight. Beulah (18-10) will face Hatton in an elimination game at 5.
For Villarreal, his walk-off hit Thursday seemed quite reminiscent of his single two months ago in the sixth inning of a high school state tournament semifinal against Beulah, which put Grafton up for good.
“He likes the big moments,” Grafton coach Chad Kliniske said. “It’s fitting that as a senior he gets another shot to do that.”
The Spoilers took advantage of two early Beulah errors and jumped out to a 2-0 lead through two innings.
Beulah cut the lead to one with a run on two hits in the third inning, but struggled with 16-year-old Grafton pitcher Adam Mach. The right-handed youngster scattered four hits in the first six innings.
“For a 16-year-old, he’s pretty amazing,” Villarreal said. “He showed some guts pitching up there against these guys. To shut them down for most of the game, he did pretty well.”
Grafton plated a pair of runs in the sixth to extend its lead to 5-1.
Then Beulah, which rallied from a two-run, seventh-inning deficit on Wednesday in a win against LaMoure, used four hits – including a two-run triple from Trevor Zacher – to tie the game.
“It takes a lot to come back from four down, but we just didn’t have enough in the final inning to come through,” Beulah coach Ryan Bodell said.
In the bottom of the frame, Beulah pitcher Cody Nelson beamed Sam Heuchert to lead off and intentionally walked Christian Lunde, setting the stage for Villarreal.
“We felt fortunate that we got the last at-bat,” Villarreal said. “We had another shot to get one run, and for the most part one run was hard off (Nelson). Luckily we got it.”
Ryan Holmgren covers Legion baseball and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgrenMDN.