Chatfield denies Blossoms#039; trip to tournament

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2003

ROCHESTER -- Chatfield's Luke Proper gave himself the lead before he ever took the mound Thursday night, blasting a three-run homer in the top of the first inning that proved to be enough to hold off Blooming Praire in the Section 1A finals at Hudson Field in Rochester.

Proper, after staking himself to a 3-0 lead, pitched a complete-game three-hitter for a 5-2 victory. The win clinched the Gophers' third straight section title and subsequent trip to next week's Class A state tournament.

Blooming Prairie (19-7) scored nine runs against Proper in last Saturday's 10-9 loss to the top-seeded Gophers, but the bats were cold for a Blossom squad in search of its first state tournament berth.

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"We just had to keep hitting the ball like what we had been all night (on Wednesday)," said BPHS senior David Kramer, who slugged a pair of two-run home runs in the Blossoms' back-to-back wins the night before. "We hit (Proper) good last Saturday, but tonight he did a good job of changing speeds.

"We thought we were just as good as them, even better, but they showed up tonight and beat us."

Proper did the job for Chatfield by keeping the first five batters in Blooming Prairie's batting order hitless. John Hofius and Alan Lica had run-scoring singles as the Blossoms scraped together solo runs in the fourth and sixth innings. Designated hitter Andy Helkenn had the team's only other hit.

Blooming Prairie starter Kraig Olson surrendered an infield single to the game's opening batter, Nate Neis, and Steve Opat then walked. Proper followed with a three-run homer to slow an upstart Blossoms squad.

"We hit them last night and got that momentum swing, but they took it back right away," said BPHS coach Chris Staloch. "This was a great experience. We proved that we belong here."

The Blossoms eliminated Elgin-Millville with a 6-1 decision Wednesday night and stayed alive with a 9-5 victory over Chatfield. That set the stage for Thursday's winner-take-all contest.

"It was fun battling them," Staloch said. "We were right there with them."

Chatfield led 3-0 through three innings before the Blossoms broke through with a two-out run in the fourth. Helkenn reached on an error, moved up on another error and scored on Hofius' single up the middle.

The Gophers got one back with a run in the sixth, to which Blooming Prairie answered with a run of its own. Brayton Johnson was hit by a pitch and scored one out later on Lica's 0-2 single to center.

Chatfield added an insurance run in the seventh after Proper's leadoff double that right fielder Derek Ingvalson lost above the lights.

Olson struck out five, walked two and beaned two in the complete-game loss. Proper struck out five as well, allowing three walks and one hit batsman.

Chatfield has not won a state tournament game in its three previous visits (0-6). The Gophers open Class A play on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at Chaska.



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Proper and Bell; Olson and Farr. WP--Proper. LP--Olson. 2B--C: Boyum, Proper. HR--C: Proper.