RED WING — Sports have been full of unknowns in the past four months. High schools in Minnesota don’t know if or how their fall season will play out. The Minnesota Baseball Association playoffs, scheduled for play in New Ulm, was denied by the city’s council. As of Monday, the plan was to hold the tournament in Springfield but that could change in the next few weeks as well. One thing that is known for sure is that the Red Wing Aces have secured the No. 1 seed in the Region 5C playoffs.

Playing in its final league game of the summer Sunday evening after a rain-soaked morning pushed the start time back, the Aces made it six straight victories in league play. Red Wing had actually locked up the No. 1 seed two nights prior with an 11-1 win over Cannon Falls.

With that No. 1 seed, the Aces earned a first-round bye in the playoffs set to begin Aug. 1. Red Wing won’t have its first playoff matchup until Saturday, Aug. 8. Between now and then however, the team scheduled non-league games to keep them ready to go when playoff games roll around.

“I think we’re sitting good. We’ve got three games here now since we have that bye in the first round to get ready,” Aces manager Justin Plein said. “I think we’ll be ready and hopefully we’ll take this next week in some non-league games and put everything together and be ready to go on the 8th.”

For the most part, Red Wing has coasted through its league opponents this summer, outscoring opponents 57-8 in its first five games. The finale Sunday against Hastings was a much closer affair, however.

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Getting pushed into extra innings, it took a bases-loaded walk-off hit over the center fielder’s head by Dixon Irwin in the 10th inning to give the Aces an undefeated league record in 2020.

Dixon Irwin hits what ended up being the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia
Dixon Irwin hits what ended up being the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Jake Pfeifer / RiverTown Multimedia

Hastings did all of its damage in the fourth and fifth innings. In the top of the fourth, the Hawks put up four runs to chase Aces’ starter Marcus Walm from the mound. Hastings notched another run in the fifth on Ben Kuehni but would only get two more base runners the rest of the game.

Red Wing tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning by being patient at the plate. In the Aces first six at-bats, they would record four walks, a hit-by-pitch and a bunt single leading to three runs.

From there, the Aces left three runners on base in the eighth and ninth innings. A fourth runner, Jack Carlson, was thrown out at the plate in the ninth inning after missing a sign to stop at third base.

None of that mattered though in the 10th inning after Spencer Schroeder led the inning off with a hit and reached third base in the next at-bat on a sac bunt. Hastings intentionally walked Adam Thygesen and Brady Schroeder to load the bases and nearly got out of the jam after forcing Corey Tauer to pop up for the second out. But, Irwin smacked the game-winning hit to deep center in the next at-bat, giving the Aces the 6-5 win.

Notable performances

Irwin not only logged the game-winning hit but went 3-for-5 at the plate with two RBI and a run. Brady Schroeder went 1-for-3 with four walks and scored a run, while Spencer Schroeder went 1-for-4 with a walk, stolen base and scored the winning run.

Walm and Kuehni were the only pitchers to take the mound for the Aces. Walm went 3 ⅔ innings and gave up four earned runs. He gave up three hits and also walked and struck out three batters.

Kuehni pitched the final 6 ⅓ innings and gave up one earned run to earn the win. He struck out six and gave up three hits without issuing a walk.

Next up, the Aces will play Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at home against the Tri-City Shark. Red Wing is now 11-6 on the season with three games remaining.