Herald Journal Sports Editor
The first weekend of the Region 7C Tournament is in the books, and what a first weekend it was. The Plato Bluejays and Young America Cardinals have punched their tickets to the 2018 Class C state tournament by going 2-0 the first weekend.
The unpredictability also continued this year at the Region 7C Tournament. The Watertown Red Devils, the No. 2 seed, were upset in the first round by the No. 7 seed Brownton Bruins, and lost in their second game as their season came to an end. With Watertown out, that marks another year where the top four seeds in the tournament did not survive and make it to the state tournament. Only once since Region 7C got four teams in 2012 have all four of the top seeds advanced to the state tournament.
Below is a look at all the games throughout the first weekend at Lions Field in Waconia.
Plato 8, Cologne 1
WACONIA – Chris Odegaard and the Plato Bluejays wasted no time in showing why they are the No. 1 seed in the Region 7C Tournament. The Bluejays jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first, and held off a few scoring chances by the Cologne Hollanders to open their postseason with an 8-1 victory Thursday night.
Odegaard was dominant on the mound for the Bluejays in the win. He struck out 15 as he had things working early and often. The Hollanders had their chances against Odegaard, but were unable to covert those scoring chances in the loss. The Hollanders left 11 runners on base in the loss, as they fell to the losers bracket and were forced to fight to keep their season alive.
For Cologne offensively, Anthony Brenner had things working at the plate. He went 3-for-5 a double and a run scored. Jon Kummer added two hits.
On Plato’s side, Tyler Lang continued to produce at the plate. He went 2-for-5 with a double and three RBI to spark the offense.
Green Isle 4, Carver 2
WACONIA – The Green Isle Irish continued their postseason dominance over the Carver Black Sox in the first round of the Region 7C Tournament. After getting swept in the regular season by the Black Sox, the Irish returned the favor with a 4-2 victory Friday night at Lions Field.
In a game that saw a 90 minute weather delay, both starting pitchers battled through it. Green Isle led 1-0 as play was delayed in the bottom of the third. When play resumed, Cody Hallahan and Mark Ulrich continued to battle it out on the mound.
After both teams squandered scoring chances once play resumed, it was the Irish who broke through against Ulrich to extend their lead. Jackson Hallahan started the rally with a single. A walk to Zach Herd gave the Irish runners on the corners with just one out, and Lucas Herd delivered. Lucas Herd made it 2-0 Irish with an RBI single down the left field line, and the Irish weren’t done there. Veteran Mac Zachow added two more on an RBI single, and just like that, the Irish held a 4-0 lead.
Down to their last at-bat, the Black Sox attempted to rally. Cole Kirchoff led off the inning with a triple, and the Black Sox hopes were still alive. Kirchoff then scored on a groundout from Bryce Tuma to get on the board. With one run across, the Black Sox were looking for more. Andrew Weber delivered with an RBI triple to make it 4-2, and the Black Sox had the tying runs on base.
The comeback was stopped by Green Isle’s Alex Twenge as he got a strikeout and groundout to end the threat and give the Irish the win.
Young America 5, Waconia 3
WACONIA – In a rematch of a state-qualifier game from last year, it was the Young America Cardinals who made it two-straight wins against the Waconia Lakers in the Region 7C Tournament. The third-seeded Cardinals used a five-run second inning to take an early lead, and held on late to move on with a 5-3 victory Saturday afternoon.
Dillon Whittaker got things rolling with an RBI single to open the scoring for the Cardinals in the bottom of the second. Just when it looked like that’s all the Cardinals would get, two-out hits from Brice Panning and Matt Mann made it 5-0 Cardinals.
With a 5-0 lead alongside him on the mound, Young America’s Josh Lenz was cruising. He faced the minimum through three innings, and took a shutout into the seventh inning.
In the top of the seventh is when the Lakers finally got their bats going. After being held to just two hits in the first six innings, the bats finally came alive. An error gave the Lakers a threat with one out, and Sam Schiffmann delivered with an RBI single making it 5-1. The Lakers would add two more runs in the eighth thanks to an error and RBI single from Chris Bullis.
Brice Panning would close the door for the Cardinals in the final two innings, giving the Cardinals the win and a shot to punch their ticket to the state tournament in a state-qualifier game.
Lenz threw seven innings, allowing just one earned run off of seven hits to get the win. Panning got the save, recording the final six outs for Young America.
At the plate, Panning led the way with two hits, two RBI, and a run scored.
For Waconia, Robbie Smothers led the way with a two-hit game in the loss.
Brownton 6, Watertown 0
WACONIA – The Brownton Bruins were just where they like to be. As the No. 7 seed, the Bruins came in under the radar once again, which is just how they like it. The low seed doesn’t bother them much, and they proved it once again as they upset second-seeded Watertown 6-0 Saturday afternoon.
Ryan Grams was as dominant as you could ask him to be on the mound and at the plate. Not only did he throw a complete game shutout, he also had a four-hit game and two RBI to lead the Bruins to the upset win.
Grams got things rolling in the top of the first with a two-out RBI single. After giving his team the lead, he worked out of a jam in the bottom half, thanks to a great pickoff throw from catcher Bryant Nordby.
From then on, Grams was nearly untouchable. He faced three batters each inning in six of the last eight innings, never letting Watertown get anything going.
With a 1-0 lead after one inning, Brownton was able to take advantage of some sloppy defense by the Red Devils in the top the of the fifth. An error and some timely hitting allowed the Bruins to break things open with three runs. With a 4-0 lead and Grams in cruise control, the Bruins rode their leader to finish and completed the upset.
Plato 5, Green Isle 4
WACONIA – In a battle between bitter rivals, the top-seeded Plato Bluejays were the first team in Region 7C to punch their ticket to the state tournament with an exciting 5-4 victory Saturday night.
It was a perfect start for the Green Isle Irish, who were shorthanded with Lucas Herd and Ben Alexander missing in the lineup. The Irish struck for two runs in the top of the first inning, thanks to a double from Alex Twenge. The Bluejays got one back in the bottom of the first as Chris Odegaard scored on a wild pitch, but in the top of the third, the Irish were able to extend their lead once again.
A sac fly from Zach Herd in the top of the second gave the Irish a 3-1 lead, but after that, it was all Adam Prehn. Besides a solo home run to Josh Kraby in the top of the fourth, Prehn retired 16 of the next 19 batters he faced to give Plato a shot.
His offense returned the favor. A sac fly and RBI from Dylan McCormick in the bottom of the sixth tied the game, and it was Chris Odegaard once again giving the Bluejays a spark in the seventh.
Odegaard led off the inning with his second double of the day, and scored on a wild pitch to give the Bluejays their first lead of the game.
McCormick closed things down for the Bluejays in relief, getting the final two outs of the game on just four pitches. With the win, Plato is the first Region 7C team to punch their ticket to the state tournament.
Carver 6, Cologne 2
WACONIA – A six-run fourth inning for the Carver Black Sox was more than enough as the Cologne Hollanders had their struggles continue in a 6-2 loss Sunday afternoon at Lions Field. The Hollanders once again had their chances, but were unable to take advantage with key hits when they needed it. In their two Region 7C games, the Hollanders struck out 25 times, and left 25 men on base in the two losses.
Despite the struggles in the clutch, the Hollanders opened the scoring in the top of the fourth. After Kyle Brazil opened the inning with a leadoff double, he came around to score on a suicide squeeze laid down by Kraig Peterson to give the Hollanders a 1-0 lead.
After watching the Hollanders take the lead, the Black Sox answered back immediately. After a leadoff walk opened the inning, the Black Sox rattled off five hits in the inning, including two doubles from Andrew Weber and Kyle Dalton to take the lead.
With a 6-1 lead and good defense behind him, Stuart Maes was in cruise control the rest of the way. He finished the game going six innings, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out seven.
Cologne’s Casey Clemensen gave the Hollanders a chance to stay in it late. He finished the final three and two-thirds innings on the mound, retiring 14 of the 15 batters he faced.
Waconia 5, Watertown 2
WACONIA – After not completing a late rally in the first round against Young America, the Waconia Lakers were able to pull it off in an elimination game against the Watertown Red Devils. Trailing 2-0 heading into the eighth inning, the Lakers woke up the bats in a big way, rallying for five runs in the final two innings to keep their season alive with a 5-2 victory.
It was the Red Devils that got the scoring started. A two-out RBI single from Jordan Berrios gave the Red Devils a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third. In the bottom of the fourth, Watertown added another run after a hit and an error, making it 2-0 Red Devils.
With Zach Iten cruising on the mound for Watertown, the Lakers were unable to get anything going offensively. They had just two hits as a team heading to the eighth inning, but once again, started a late rally.
After the first two outs of the inning came easy for Iten on the mound in the eighth, it was the top of the order that got things rolling for the Lakers. Robbie Smith reached on a single to give the Lakers a baserunner, and the Lakers were just getting thing started with a little two-out magic. Derek Martin drew a walk, and then Chris Bullis kept things rolling with a single to load the bases.
With two outs and the bases loaded down 2-0, AJ Friedrich delivered with a double down the left field line to score a pair and tie the game at two.
After rallying to tie the game in the top of the eighth, the Lakers rallied for the win in the top of the ninth. With two runners on and just one out, Robbie Smothers gave the Lakers the lead with a double to make it 3-2. The Lakers weren’t done there, though. Robbie Smith stayed hot at the plate and drove in two more runs with a single, making it 5-2 Waconia.
Veteran Ryan Naughton closed the door in the bottom of the ninth on the mound, completing the comeback and keeping the season alive for the Lakers.
Young America 2, Brownton 1
WACONIA – The Young America Cardinals are headed back to the state tournament for the second year in a row after a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Brownton Bruins Sunday evening to close out the first weekend of the Region 7C Tournament. After struggling to get anything going offensively, the Cardinals rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth and held on in the ninth to punch their ticket to the state tournament.
Isaac Hormann led off the bottom of the eighth with a double, and it looked like the Cardinals were finally going to be able to get something going. After two-straight pop outs on two pitchers, Hormann remained at second base, and it looked as if the Cardinals were going to let a golden opportunity slip away.
Hormann finally was able to come around and score thanks to an error. Roch Whittaker hit a slow grounder back to the pitcher, but an errant throw allowed Whittaker to reach, which also brought in Hormann to score and tie the game at one.
With two outs and chance to take the lead, Kyle Horstmann delivered for the Cardinals. An RBI single off the glove of the first baseman brought in Alex Buckentine, and the Cardinals had a 2-1 lead after trailing all game long.
In the top of the ninth, Dillon Whittaker got the first two outs, but Grant Baumetz kept Brownton’s hopes alive with a two-out single. Hayden Meyer came in to pitch for the Cardinals following the single, and gave up a single to Spencer Glaeser.
With runners on the corners and two outs, Meyer got the final out of the game with a strikeout looking, which completed the comeback and sent the Cardinals to the state tournament.