The Storm Lake High baseball team's 2006 season was turned around with one swing here Friday night.
The Tornadoes trailed 2-0 going into the bottom of the fifth, and were lucky to be behind by only two runs.
After scratching out a run in that frame off Estherville-Lincoln Central pitcher Matt Gruhlke, Storm Lake junior Zack Manteufel hit a two-out, three-run homer to left, lifting Storm Lake to a 4-2 lead.
After retaking the lead, SLHS senior ace Logan Masters faced the minimum six hitters over the last two innings, giving the Tornadoes a 4-2 win.
"We made some plays tonight, and Zack's been getting some big hits for us all year," Tornado coach Bill McCabe said after the game.
"At the plate, we wanted to make their pitcher work and get his pitch count up," he added. "I thought the two guys up before Zack fouled off a lot of pitches, and I think that helped.
"I think it was a matter of our guys wearing them down a little bit," said McCabe, whose team improved to 12-12 on the season.
The Tornadoes move to the district finals, where they'll face Lakes rival Spencer Monday night in Estherville. The Tigers advanced Thursday with an 11-2 rout of Spirit Lake. Storm Lake swept the season series with Spencer this season.
"We're anticipating another close, hard-fought game; Spencer has a good club," McCabe said.
Meanwhile, Friday night Gruhlke didn't give up a hit until the fateful fifth. His team struck first, scoring a single run in the top of the fourth on an RBI-single by senior Trent Prather.
In the top of the fifth, Masters was in deep trouble after hitting the first three batters he faced. Prather grounded a single to right, scoring a runner from third. SLHS rightfielder Tyson Brandt threw home to catcher Lucas Droessler and nailed E-LC's Brad Delig, who didn't slide on an attempt to score from second.
It was a crucial out. Masters relaxed a bit and struck out Matt Watts and Andy Soper to keep the lead at just 2-0.
SL's Travis Wendt started the bottom of the fifth by drawing a walk. Brandt layed down a sac bunt and with Wendt on second, Masters singled for a run and a 2-1 deficit.
Alex Severson was Gruhlke's tenth strikeout, and the next hitter, Mitch McCabe was hit by a pitch and gave Manteufel a chance with two runners on.
Meanwhile, the Tornadoes closed out their regular season at home Wednesday evening with a 5-1 loss to Denison-Schleswig.
Nick Crippen took the mound loss, throwing two innings and giving up four runs, three of which were earned. Three pitchers followed, including Zack Manteufel, Tyson Brandt and Ben Seaman.
"We used four different pitchers so we'd be ready for tournaments," said SLHS coach Bill McCabe.
"Our pitchers did a good job of keeping us in the game, but when you only get three hits, it's hard to mount anything on offense," he added.
McCabe said in the first three innings, his team made three baserunning mistakes.
"As a team, we need to be focused and play solid baseball in tournaments," he added. "We need to play well both at the plate and in the field."
Wednesday, Denison Schleswig scored one in the first, two in the second and two more in the fourth.
The Tornadoes scored their lone run in the top of the second.
Offensively for the Tornadoes, Crippin drove in the only SLHS run. The other two hits were singles by Mitch McCabe and senior Logan Masters.