BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Local amateur baseball teams had a week of give and take when playing each other during the last week of the regular North Star League season.
The Loretto Larks beat the Delano A’s 7-1 Wednesday, Delano beat the Rockford River Bandits 11-0 Friday and Rockford knocked off Loretto 4-2 Saturday. The games had a bearing on seedings for the upcoming Region tournament.
When the dust cleared, four teams ended up tied for fourth place in the league at 14-8 behind Maple Lake (19-3), Howard Lake (16-6) and Maple Plain (15-7). Rankings of the next four teams that are tied were decided by tie breakers.
Had Loretto beat either Rockford or Maple Plain in the last game, it would have earned the No. 3 spot. Instead, the Larks are fourth and will play in the same bracket as defending state champ Maple Lake. Loretto is No. 4, followed by Hutchinson, Delano and DC.
The final Region playoff spot will be decided by a playoff this week between the remaining five teams. Rockford (7-15) won its last two games to move up to No. 9 and will play Buffalo Saturday, July 27 at a site to be determined. The eighth seed will take on No. 1 Maple Lake, 7:30 p.m. July 31 at Howard Lake, where all Region games will be played.
Delano opens Region play at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2 against Maple Plain, followed by Loretto going against Hutchinson, 8:30 p.m. The goal is to advance to the state Class C tournament hosted by Delano and Maple Lake.
In the first matchup of local teams last week, Loretto’s Nick Koch pitched a complete game victory in 90-degree and humid conditions. He said the ball was a little sticky when allowing seven hits in nine innings.
Ryan Schaust hit his first home run of the season for the Larks to take a 2-1 lead in the sixth. Luke Steinbach drove in the first run in the fourth. Kent Koch batted 4 for 4, while Tyler Maher and Schaust both added two hits.
Delano’s Zach Muchenhirn pitched well for six innings. Ryan Hayes drove in the lone run. Toby Hanson and Jay Stevens both had two hits.
The A’s bounced back to dominate Rockford 11-0 behind the 2-hit shutout pitching of Trevor Jaunich and Jud Mckown. Hanson powered the offense by going 3 for 4. Collecting two hits each was Joey and Jeff Althoff and Stevens.
It was Rockford’s turn to bounce back for the first victory over Loretto in five years. Jason Lesser worked all nine innings, tossing up 132 pitches and allowing just five hits. Ben Fontana was 3 for 5 and Lance Reynolds was 2 for 4, both driving home two runs.
“I think what fired us up was Loretto had a double header with Maple Plain Sunday and we felt they were looking past us,” said Rockford coach Ryan Rassatt. “Hopefully, the nice finish gets us motivated for the playoffs.”
Loretto’s Randy Moselle pitched in relief the final seven innings, yielding a run-scoring double. Otherwise, the member of the state amateur baseball Hall of Fame who is in his 50’s, has pitched well in relief this season. Nate Maher had two hits and Schaust and Tyler Maher both doubled.
Rockford followed the win over the Larks with an 11-0 romp over Montrose. Jake Gleason pitched all seven innings with nine strikeouts. Cole Hansen was 2 for 3, driving home two runs.
The Larks took on Maple Plain in a double header Sunday, needing one win to take the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. Loretto won the first game 5-1 when Troy Beckman allowed the only run in the last inning. Ryan Tapani and Schaust both had two hits and Hanson had a 2-run single.
In the second game, Nathan Maher pitched a shutout through five innings when a 2-run homer tied the game. Maple Plain would score five runs in the sixth to win 5-2. Shaust provided two hits.
After losing to Loretto, Delano won three straight, beating Rockford, DC 6-3 and Mound 9-5. Matt Arens allowed two runs in six innings, with Cody Mathison saving the DC game. Joey Althoff was 3 for 4, while Hanson and Stevens both had two hits.
Aaron Swenson pitched the first six innings and Mathison the final three against Mound. Stevens provided three hits and Joey Athoff two.