Thrilling Night Ends in Heartbreak for Raiders

Senior captains (left to right) Gabe Sawyer, Tyler Hughes, and Spencer Mellgren accept the section 1AAA runner-up plaque. Photo: Jim Wellbrock

By AJ Reisetter

The number three-seeded Byron Bears knocked off the number one-seeded Northfield Raiders on Saturday, June 3rd to send them to the elimination bracket. Northfield was able to defeat Winona and advance to the championship round of the Section 1AAA tournament. However, the Raiders needed to win two games to take the title and earn a birth to the state tournament. Northfield held on and defeated Byron, 4-1, in game one on Wednesday, June 7th in Red Wing to force a game two. In one of the most thrilling games of the season that went into extra innings the Raiders started to build a comeback, but ultimately lost, 8-7, and the Bears were crowned the section champions.

Nolan Thompson’s Complete Game Forces Game Two

Nolan Thompson dominates on the mound throwing a total of nine innings over the two games. Photo: Jim Wellbrock

The scoring in game one started in the first inning. Byron strung together back-to-back singles and Spencer Nierman was able to drive in the lead runner on a base hit to left field to give the Bears the 1-0 lead. The Raiders responded in the home half after Spencer Mellgren singled to right field to get aboard and advanced to second on a fielders choice induced by Kam Kaiser. Austin Koep drove in Spencer on a single to center to tie the game, 1-1.

Northfield took the lead in the third inning on a flurry of throwing mistakes by Byron. Jake Geiger drove a ground ball past the shortstop Tyler Fox for a base hit. Geiger then took off for second base on a stolen base attempt, but the father threw the ball into center field. Geiger advanced to third on the throw down to second, but the throw to third was also bobbled and Geiger came all the way around to score and give Northfield the 2-1 lead.

The Raiders then scored another two runs in the sixth inning. A triple from Kam Kaiser to right field and an intentional walk to Koep set up for a Jake Eschen single to left field to drive in both runs and give the Raiders the 4-1 lead.

Nolan Thompson finished game one with two strikeouts and only one walk through seven innings.

Back-and-Forth Thriller Ends in Heartbreak

Jake Geiger rounds third on throwing errors by Byron. Photo: Jim Wellbrock

Northfield took an early lead after Austin Koep hammered a two-run homerun over the left field fence for a 2-0 lead. Byron, however, answered back on a pop fly that dropped after Spencer and Tegan Mellgren ran into each other. Kaelin Hubert scored from third on the error and reduce the deficit to one.

Isaiah Brennan led off the third inning with a single which ended Thompson’s day on the mound. Tyler Hughes entered the game in relief and let up a single to center field that scored Brennan, but Nierman was thrown out at second on the throw from Kaiser. Northfield retook the lead in the home half on a hard ground ball to right field by Koep to drive in Spencer Mellgren and give Northfield a 3-2 lead.

In the fifth inning, Byron exploded for three runs to take the lead. Nierman drove in another run on a line drive to center field that scored Brennan. Hubert tallied another run after lining one to left field that scored Reid Bielen to give them a 4-3 lead. Isaiah Stiner came in to pitch afterward and let up a fielders choice that scored Nierman on a throwing error by Spencer Mellgren. The Raiders, however, would not go away quietly. Geiger led off the bottom half of the inning with a triple to the left-field corner and came around to score on a Spencer Mellgren single to right field. Kaiser then doubled to center to score Mellgren and tie the game, 5-5.

Austin Koep hits a two-run homerun in the first inning to give Northfield the 2-0 lead. Photo: Jim Wellbrock

Byron took the lead in the eighth inning. The Bears strung together three singles to load the bases, Matt Friegard scored on a wild pitch by Stiner. Fox then flew out to right field but scored Nick Netzke on the sacrifice fly and give Byron a 7-5 lead. Tegan Mellgren came into the game to pitch after Stiner walked Brennan to load the bases again. Jake Coshnet flew out to left field and Quntin Holmes scored on another sacrifice fly and give the Bears an 8-5 lead. In the bottom half, the Raiders strung together two singles and Geiger reached on an error. He would come around to score and cut the deficit to one run after Spencer Mellgren delivered a single to right field. However, Bielen induced a ground ball to end the Northfield rally and send Byron to the state tournament with a final score of 8-7.

Nolan Thompson’s Nine-Inning Performance

After Thompson’s seven-inning performance, he was called on to start game two as well. The Raider MVP and Big 9 pitcher of the year went two more innings for a combined nine innings over the two games. He ended the night with two strikeouts, two walks, and two runs allowed.

Thompson was also named to the Big 9 All-Conference team and the Section 1AAA All-Section team.

Nolan Thompson and Gabe Sawyer embrace after loss. Photo: Jim Wellbrock

What’s Next?

The Byron Bears will compete in the state tournament starting Tuesday, June 13th in Jordan. The Raiders season ended their season with a 19-7 record and finished runner-up in the Big 9 regular season and the section tournament.

Stay up to date with all Northfield activities by heading over to and following us on social media @NorthfiedLive.