The circumstances were remarkably similar. Travis Krukow was determined to make sure the outcome was completely different.
The La Crescent senior pitched a complete-game four-hitter, striking out six, leading the Lancers past the Otters and into their second Class 2A championship game in the past three years.
Krukow, a righthander with a plus-fastball and a biting curve, was the starting pitcher for La Crescent in the 2010 semifinals. He lasted less than an inning, giving up five runs in a loss to eventual state champion Rocori. The sour taste left by that performance lingered with Krukow for an entire season.
“I wanted some redemption for last year,” Krukow said. “I wanted to show I was a better pitcher than I was against Rocori.”
“Travis had all his pitches working today,” said catcher Troy Traxler, a junior who has played on all three of La Crescent’s state tournament teams. “He was getting into hitters’ heads.”
Traxler, a natural who appears as if he were born with a baseball in his hand, got the Lancers off to a positive start with his own baseball moxie.
He walked to lead off the game, stole second, went to third on a ground out and raced home on a wild pitch by Fergus Falls pitcher Pete Gaustad. Little did anyone know that Traxler’s run would hold up as the game-winner.
“I know that my job is to be that spark,” Traxler said. “I know if I do my job, we’ll be successful.”