BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Both Rockford and Delano picked one amateur baseball tournament to enter this summer and it happened to be the same one in Cologne last weekend.
Both teams also made it to the championship game Sunday to continue the rivalry of local teams. The Delano A’s held off a couple late game threats by the River Bandits to win 8-4. Rockford had the bases loaded in both the fifth and sixth innings but managed one run.
The teams will go at it again in North Star League play when Rockford travels to Delano, 2 p.m. Sunday, July 7. It is a home game for Rockford, which is currently without a home field. Teams took a break for the All-Star game July 3 in Maple Lake.
Delano went 5-0 on the week after battling back to edge Cokato 9-8 and defeating Buffalo 9-3. At the Cologne tournament, Delano beat Staples 4-0 and Blue Earth 4-3 in extra innings.
Meanwhile, Rockford limped into the Cologne tourney after getting just two hits in the 8-0 loss to defending state champion Maple Lake. However, pitching was better in a 5-3 win over Ortonville and the bats came alive in the 14-1 win over tourney host Cologne. The River Bandits entered the tourney title game against some familiar faces.
The A’s jumped out to an early 4-run lead, sparked by a 2-run single by Ryan Hayes. Rockford rallied in the fourth to tie the game. Joey Althoff entered the game in the fifth and pitched out of a jam. He did not allow any runs the rest of the way despite some tense moments.
Delano took the lead on a sacrifice fly from Althoff. Collecting two hits each were Toby Hanson, Jay Stevens, Jon Dahl, Hayes and Althoff.
The big hit by Rockford came when Ben Fontana provided a bases-clearing double to tie the game in the fourth. Nick Main and Ian Keen were both 2 for 4.
Earlier in the tourney against Ortonville, Dusty Littlefield was 2 for 3 with a home run. Ben Fontana was 2 for 4 with a homer and 3 RBIs. Jason Lesser pitched five and a third innings to get the win. George Faue got the save.
Rockford banged out 17 hits in five innings when overpowering Cologne. Jake Gleason pitched all five innings. Andy Jorges was 3 for 3 with a double. Littlefield drove home three runs when going 3 for 3 with a double. Also going 3 for 3 was Main and Landon Auld.
Earlier in the week, Delano was trailing Cokato 7-3 before coming back to win 9-8. It was like the first meeting between the teams when Delano trailed 11-3, but rallied to win 14-11.
This time Hanson was up in the eighth inning in a bunting situation. Coach Steve Eilen gave the high school standout the green light and he doubled to tie the game. Cokato regained the lead in the ninth, but Trevor Jaunich tied the game again. Jay Stevens won the game in the 10th with a sacrifice fly.
Josh Muchenhirn, Trevor Jaunich, Hunter Hart and Hayes all had two hits each.
In the win over Buffalo, Aaron Swenson pitches the first seven innings and Trevor Jaunich the last two. Getting two hits each was Kevin and Trevor Jaunich, Muchenhirn and Hart.
Against Staples at the Cologne tourney, Judd McKnown allowed five hits in seven innings. Althoff had two hits and Trevor Jaunich slammed a home run.
Delano took on two-time state champion Blue Earth in the semifinals. Zach Muchenhirn, fresh from playing in the state high school All-Star game and state tournament, had a no-hitter through five innings and left in the seven with the score tied at one.
Hart singled to tie the game in the seventh, sending the game to extra innings. Blue Earth scored twice in the ninth without a ball leaving the infield. Cody Mathison pitched the last two innings and started the bottom of the ninth with a bunt single.
Dahl and Adam Jaunich singled to load the bases with no outs. Treavor Jaunich drove in one run with a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-2. Josh Muchenhirn singled to tie the game and Andy Brown won the game on a suicide squeeze bunt.
Eilen said his team has not played in a tournament in several years, mainly because it was difficult to get enough players. This year the players talked about wanting to do it. The coach responded by saying if enough players commit to play he would go along with it.
After hosting Rockford Sunday, Delano will play at Maple Plain, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 10 and at Howard Lake, 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 12. The A’s will be at rival Loretto July 17 and home to Rockford again July 19. League playoffs begin July 24.
The only negative factor on the week was when Trevor Jaunich suffered a hamstring pull late in the tourney title game.
Delano is off to a 12-4 start in the year it will host the state tournament, Aug. 16-Sept. 2. Eilen said the team has not come close to playing its best, as it gives several young players some experience.