by Matthew Davis
Chanhassen pitcher Miles Nablo looked ready to close out Northfield with a 5-1 lead in the ninth inning, but the Knights had other plans.
Nablo and the Redbirds escaped 5-4 in the second round Friday after a sudden rally by a Knights team that hadn’t scored since the fourth inning. Center fielder Scott Benjamin hit an RBI double, and second baseman Aldon Severson hit a two-run single to trim the lead to a run with two outs.
Redbirds Zach Hoffman ended the game by tagging out Knights first baseman Tim Maus. Nablo earned the save after two innings of work. He made quick work of the Knights in the eighth inning after fanning a couple batters and retiring the last on a groundout.
Chanhassen started building its lead with designated hitter Derek Smith stealing home in the third inning. Redbirds shortstop Brandon Arnold threatened to make it 2-0 trying to steal home but got tagged out.
Northfield tied the game in the top of the fourth inning when third baseman Troy Deden singled to score Maus. Deden and Maus each had three hits as the Knights finished with eight hits, matching the Redbirds’ total.
The Knights left base runners stranded often and committed errors in the field, which the Redbirds took advantage of in building a 5-1 lead in the fifth through seventh innings. Smith singled for an RBI in the fifth to put the Redbirds ahead to stay as right fielder Jackson Goplen scored.
Arnold made it home in the sixth inning on third baseman Michael Jurgella’s RBI double. First baseman Zach Hoffmann singled next as Jurgella scored to make it 4-1 Rebirds.
Chanhassen added an insurance run in the seventh when Smith put Goplen across home plate again on a single for a 5-1 lead. Knights pitcher Jake Mathison and company got out of the seventh without any further damage as the Redbirds left runners on base. Mathison finished with three strikeouts in two innings of work.
Knights starting pitcher Jon Ludwig went six innings and struck out five batters. Redbirds starter John Straka went seven innings and fanned 12 batters.
Chanhassen will face the Champlin Park-Miesville winner 1 p.m. Sunday.