As Velva-Drake-Anamoose baseball coach Gene Buen put it, "not good things" were running through the skipper's mind after watching Bishop Ryan junior Mason Kramer drill a double down the left-field line with the tying run on first base.
But third baseman Dixon Bauer relayed left fielder Brady Engebretson's throw to catcher Ryan Bowman, who tagged out pinch runner Aaron Sandy for the final out Monday at Jack Hoeven Park.
The Aggies' 6-5 victory clinched the Region 6 regular season title.
"It's what we play baseball for to get to this moment and go into the region tournament with the No. 1 seed," V-D-A starting pitcher Drew Effertz said.
It was nearly deja vu for the Aggies (6-3 overall, 3-1 region), who were attempting to hold on to a four-run lead in the final frame after squandering a six-run seventh-inning lead Friday in a loss to Surrey-Our Redeemer's Christian School. The Lions (8-1, 3-1) struck for three runs in the inning, but the Aggies thwarted Ryan's comeback effort as well as its hopes of capturing the region crown in its first season as a member.
"We persevered and hung in there and made a play when we had to," Buen said. "You have to give Ryan credit. They came back. Nothing's ever easy."
Ryan junior Brody Bosch led off the seventh with a single and scored on sophomore Tanner Sanders' triple to deep center field. Buen called on junior Brad Dean to record the final two outs, relieving Effertz after 6 1/3 innings. Dean held on to give Effertz the win, but it was anything but routine.
Junior Nick Berentson singled to score Sanders and classmate Jake Magnuson followed with another base hit before the Aggies recorded the second out on a fielder's choice.
With runners on first and second, Kramer came to bat representing the game-winning run. Kramer smacked a 2-2 pitch into left field, scoring Magnuson easily. Engebretson fielded the ball at the fence and relayed it to Bauer as Sandy made the turn for home. Bauer delivered a strike to Bowman, who applied the tag to end the game.
"My heart was pounding," Bowman said. "It all fell right into place. (Sandy) was halfway down the baseline so I ran up a little bit just to make sure he couldn't score."
Errors hounded both teams as Ryan scored its first two run on a V-D-A miscue. A dropped ball in right field allowed Magnuson to reach base and come around to score on an RBI single by junior Austin Eggl in the fourth. But the Lions returned the favor with two errors in the bottom half of the inning to give the Aggies a 2-1 lead. A routine infield popup dropped harmlessly near the mound and two runs came around to score on Eggl's throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Isaac Effertz.
"We have to be better defensively," Ryan coach Brent Nelson said. "We made some mistakes. We can't do that if we're going to win a region title."
The Aggies tallied four runs in the seventh to break a 2-2 tie, chasing Eggl after he allowed the first five batters to reach base. V-D-A took the lead after Bauer was hit in the side of the helmet with the bases loaded. Bowman scored the eventual game-winning run when junior Alex Erickson walked with the bags full.
"This is my first year on this team," Bowman said. "I came up from Nevada and didn't really know the history of this team or who was a great competitor. It was a great time to get out here and have a great time with this team."
Drew Effertz allowed four runs on five hits and struck out six to earn the win.
"I feel really good about how I pitched," Effertz said. "I was mixing pitches and getting ahead in the count. It was a good day."
Eggl suffered the loss after surrendering six runs on 12 hits.
The Lions host Des Lacs-Burlington and Lewis & Clark beginning at 4 p.m. today at Jack Hoeven Park.