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Birds run down Cats to earn outright SWAL title
DARLINGTON COACH Brad Solberg gets a water-jug bath from his players after the Redbirds won the 2017 SWAL title with Tuesdays 11-1 win over Southwestern.

    DARLINGTON – Senior Jesse Sturtz tossed four strong innings on the mound and helped his own cause by going 3-for-4 with two runs batted in and two runs scored as the Darlington Redbirds baseball team locked up third straight outright SWAL championship by routing Southwestern, 11-1, in a five-inning game played at Otto Ruf Field on Tuesday, May 23.
    “I’m extremely happy for these kids and even more proud of them. To get everyone’s best shot all year long and will their way to so many victories speaks volumes of their character,” said Darlington head coach Brad Solberg, who won his third conference title in his third season as the Redbirds’ coach.
    Sturtz (5-1) surrendered a run on three hits and fanned two batters over four innings to earned the title-clinching victory for the Redbirds (14-7 overall, 12-2 SWAL).
    Sturtz also doubled in the game’s first run and later scored to put Darlington up 4-0 in the first frame, and he added a RBI-single in the fifth inning and scored the game-ending run as the ‘Birds earned their fourth mercy-rule win in league play.
    “The SWAL is a extremely competitive conference top to bottom. This team is full of fighters. They do things the right way and play the game the right way,” Solberg added.
    The Redbirds scored four times in the first inning and added four more runs in the second to open up an early 8-0 advantage. Bailey McGuire and Christian Carr had RBI-single in the first inning, while Carr brought in another run with a sacrifice fly and Nick Andrae drove in two with a base hit in the second stanza.
    Brayden McDonald scored on a passed ball to open the Redbirds’ three-run rally in the home-half of the fifth, and then Ryan Glendenning ended the game by driving in Sturtz with a single to seal the 11-1 win.
    “The key to the game was getting on the board first. I think that when we get a lead other teams put a little more pressure on themselves,” explained Solberg. “I felt like we really ran the bases well. We had multiple guys who made heads up plays and took extra bases.”
    McDonald, Schwartz and Hayden Hardyman each had two hits and scored twice for the Redbirds, while Carr and Andrae drove in two runs apiece. Glendenning and McGuire each scored a run and had a RBI.
    Darlington was scheduled to open the WIAA Division 3 tournament with a regional semifinal game at home against #5-seed New Glarus on Tuesday, May 30. (The results of that game were not available at press time.)
    The regional championship game is scheduled for Wednesday, May 31. The top-seeded Redbirds would host that game should they win their playoff opener on Tuesday.
Southwestern… 000  10 –   1    3  1
Darlington…….. 440  03 – 11  13  5
Leading hitters: Brayden McDonald 2x4, Will Schwartz 2x2, Jesse Sturtz 3x4, Hayden Hardyman 2x2. 2B- Sturtz. WP- Sturtz. LP- Schneider.
At Darlington, on Tuesday, May 23