While the brackets aren’t released until Wednesday, Northfield baseball is all but assured to see a familiar face in the first round of the Section 1AAA playoffs Saturday.

The Raiders, who will likely earn the fourth seed, lost to Red Wing, likely the third seed and Northfield’s first-round opponent, 9-8 Friday at home. After falling behind 5-1 after the top of the fourth, the Raiders responded with six runs in the bottom half of the inning to take a 7-5 lead.

An extra run in the bottom of the sixth wasn’t enough, though, as Red Wing piled up four runs in the top of the seventh of ensure the victory, likely locking the No. 3 seed and the first-round home game that comes with it.

That loss is part of a four-game skid for Northfield to close the season, that also included a 5-3 defeat to Albert Lea May 15, a 10-8 setback at Rochester John Marshall Thursday and a 4-2 defeat to Park Center Monday.

In each of those games, the Raiders trailed after the third inning.

“It seems like you can never have enough runs early,” Northfield coach Mark Auge said Friday. “That’s kind of been our struggle, is that we can’t get runs early. We’ll come back, and that’s great, but we have to see if we can start getting on the board a little bit earlier.”

What has been apparent during the end-of-season losing streak is that the Raiders are receiving contributions from their entire lineup. In Friday’s loss, junior catcher Luke Stanga, hitting eighth, blasted a solo home run to start the fourth. Later in the inning, senior Michael Ims, batting seventh, roped an RBI double.

Junior Kevin Grundhoefer also drove in three out of the five-hole and scored a run. In Thursday’s loss at Rochester John Marshall, Northfield scored all eight of its runs in the final two innings with the help of a slew of pinch-hitters, including junior Simon Dickerson, who lined a pair of RBI doubles.

“That’s probably the best one-through-nine production that we’ve had,” Auge said. “(Thursday) we had a bunch of pinch-hitters come off the bench and have some big hits, and (Friday) it was the starters.

“It’s like if one guy starts hitting, then everybody hits,” Auge added. “I’m proud of their fight. In the last couple games, we’ve been down and we’ve come back, and it’s been different guys each game. I’m proud of them for that, and they didn’t give up. That’s what you have to do going into playoffs. If you get down, you have to be ready to get back up again.”

SECTION 1AAA AT A GLANCE

No. 1 Winona

Overall record: 11-7

Section record: 5-3

QRF rank: No. 7

Run differential: +21

No. 2 Austin

Overall record: 10-8

Section record: 6-3

QRF rank: No. 16

Run differential: +28

No. 3 Red Wing

Overall record: 9-9

Section record: 5-3

QRF rank: No. 21

Run differential: -18

No. 4 Albert Lea

Overall record: 7-12

Section record: 2-4

QRF rank: No. 38

Run differential: -36

No. 5 Northfield

Overall record: 7-13

Section record: 2-5

QRF rank: No. 29

Run differential: -36

No. 6 Kasson-Mantorville

Overall record: 5-13

Section record: 0-2

QRF rank: No. 54

Run differential: -44

Reach Sports Editor Michael Hughes at 645-1106. Follow him on Twitter @NFNSports.

Sports Editor for the Northfield News. Also a California native looking for tips on surviving the winter and an Indiana University grad on the quest for a good breaded pork tenderloin.

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