The Storm Lake High baseball team will enter next week's Class 3A playoffs as a co-champion of the competitive Lakes Conference.
The Tornadoes clinched it Thursday night with an 11-1 win over Spencer in five innings at Tornado Field.
Storm Lake, 19-4 overall, finished the conference schedule with a 14-2 record. Estherville won three conference games this week, beating Spencer Tuesday, routing LeMars 13-6 Wednesday then beating Western Christian 17-3 Thursday. The Midgets also finished 14-2 and share the Lakes title with the Tornadoes.
Thursday night, Storm Lake had little trouble with Spencer, pounding out 14 hits behind the five-hit pitching of hard-throwing sophomore Zack Mantuefel.
"Zack kept the Spencer hitters off balance well, mixing up a good fastball with an effective curve," said SLHS baseball coach Bill McCabe.
"We hit the ball well after a slow start, and ended the game with one out in the bottom of the fifth."
Storm Lake jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on RBI singles by senior Lance Eddie and senior Ryan Brandt.
They added a single run in the third on another RBI single from Eddie, then broke things open in the fourth inning with four runs. The big hits in that inning were a two-run triple by third-place hitter John Mach and Eddie's third RBI-single of the night.
Storm Lake ended the game in the fifth via the ten run rule by scoring four more runs. They scored a run on an error, on an RBI single by leadoff hitter Mitch McCabe and on a run-scoring triple by senior Ben Thompson.
Eddie went 3 for 3 with three RBI and a run scored, while Mach was 3 for 3 with a double, two RBI and three runs scored.
Mitch McCabe was 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored, while senior catcher Adam Ponsor went 2 for 3.
Mantuefel, meanwhile, was in control on the mound after the top of the first. In that frame, Spencer had the bases-loaded with one out.
The Tigers' fifth place hitter hit a comebacker to Mantuefel, who fired home to Ponsor for the force out. Ponsor rifled the ball back to first baseman Logan Masters to complete a nifty 1-2-3 double play.
Manteufel gave up two hits in the first inning but held Spencer to just three more hits over the next three innings. He walked one and struck out four.
Wednesday in Sioux City, SC Heelan broke open a close game in the late innings, dealing the Storm Lake High baseball team a 6-1 loss.
Heelan led 2-1 going into the bottom of the fifth inning when they scored twice for a 4-1 lead. Heelan added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Heelan righthander Dexter Sauer gave up just three Tornado hits.
"Even though we only had three hits, we hit the ball hard but it was one of those nights where it was right at their fielders," said McCabe.
Storm Lake sophomore Tyson Brandt got the mound start and went the distance, taking the loss.
"Tyson tired a little and left a few balls up," McCabe said. "Heelan capitalized on that with two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth.
"I was a well-played game by both teams."
The Tornadoes scored their lone run in the top of the first. Leadoff hitter Mitch McCabe was hit by a pitch and stole second. He later scored on a groundout by Mach.