The Apollo Eagles defeated the Rocori Spartans 3-2 in eight innings in the Section 5AAA baseball playoffs Friday afternoon in Cold Spring.

The Eagles got on the board first in the top of the first inning. Senior Noah Bissett won a long battle with Spartans starting pitcher Brandon Gill by drawing a walk, and advanced all the way to an uncovered third base on Tanner Blommer's sacrifice bunt. 

Bissett would come around to score on shortstop Lukas Theisen's RBI double to make the score 1-0. 

The Spartans answered with a run in the bottom of the second inning on back-to-back doubles from pitcher Brandon Gill and designated hitter Reed Ruegemer.

The game would remain tied until the top of the fourth inning, when the Eagles survived a miscue on the basepaths to manufacture a run. Apollo catcher John Huebsch led off the inning with a single, before yielding to courtesy runner Carter Rieland.

Rieland stole second base successfully, but then was picked off second base by Spartans catcher Mason Primus. The Eagles next batter, left fielder Nate Lampert, hit a ball into the left-center field gap and off the glove of center fielder Eli Emerson, allowing Lampert to advance to third base.

Lampert was driven home by designated hitter Tyler Corrow’s base hit to left field to give Apollo a 2-1 lead.

Rocori shortstop Jack Steil blasted a 340 foot home run to left field off of Eagles starter Isaac Benesh with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game at two and ultimately send the game to extra innings.

Benesh pitched well for the Eagles, allowing just two runs on five hits while walking just two Spartan hitters and striking out six.

“Isaac Benesh is a kid that doesn’t get rattled too easily,” Savolainen said. “He is always going to be consistent, and he can get anyone out.”

“He is just a competitor, and to have him as a junior is just a nice feeling,” Savolainen said.

Rocori pitcher Gill opened the eighth inning with a strikeout of Huebsch, but catcher Primus threw the ball wildly up the right field line for an error. Rieland, in to run for the catcher, then advanced to second on a wild pitch.

With Rieland on second base, Gill was lifted for Eli Emerson. Isaac Benesh walked to put runners on first and second base, setting the stage for Tyler Corrow’s double down the left field line to score Rieland and give Apollo a 3-2 lead.

“Tyler is one of the most hard-working kids you will ever meet,” Apollo coach Adam Savolainen said. “He earned that spot today and came up with some big (hits).”

Rocori’s Primus led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a booming triple to right-center field, followed by a Matt Waletzko fly out to second base.

With a runner on third, one out and the infield drawn in, Tyler Schroeder hit a sharp ground ball that looked destined to find the grass in right field as the game-tying hit.

Somehow, second baseman Nick Gill, playing the position for the first inning after spending the first seven at first base, made an amazing diving stab before popping up to his feet to cut down Primus at home.

“(Gill) can play three or four different positions, and it’s tough to do that,” Savolainen said. “He’s one of the best athletes that we have, he can do so many things.”

Tanner Blommer pitched the eighth inning for Apollo to earn the save.

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