BY DAVE PEDERSEN
After the first weekend of Region 12 amateur baseball playoffs, both the Delano A’s and Loretto Larks were one win away from playing at the State Class C tournament hosted by Delano and Maple Lake.
Last year it was decided more teams should have the chance to qualify for state from the competitive North Star League. Teams were put in one 12-team playoff where four would advance to state.
Delano and Loretto split two games last week and needed to win their next game this week to clinch spots. Delano faced Hutchinson Wednesday, after this issue went to press, and Loretto was to take on DC (Dassel-Cokato), 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8 in Howard Lake. All four teams had the same 14-8 record in league play.
If Loretto and Delano should win, they would play for state tourney seeding. The teams would square off at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10 in Howard Lake. That winner would play the loser of the Maple Lake-Howard Lake game at 7 p.m. Saturday. The playoff title game is 2 p.m. Sunday.
Loretto came so close to advancing when taking defending state champ and No. 1 playoff seed Maple Lake to extra innings before losing 2-1 in 10. The Larks opened the playoffs with a 7-4 victory over Hutchinson.
Delano started strong by blasting Maple Plain 13-0, before losing to No. 2 Howard Lake 15-5.
Four late inning runs propelled Loretto over Hutchinson. Troy Beckman pitched eight innings, allowing nine hits with seven strikeouts. Randy Moselle pitched the final inning. Luke Steinbach paced the offense with three hits, one a double. Kent Koch, Tyler Maher and Ryan Schaust each had two hits.
“We had a lot of chances to score against Maple Lake,” laments Loretto coach Herb Koch. “We got runners to third base four times. We thought we had them, but Maple Lake scored on a controversial call at home to tie the game in the ninth. It was such a good game against one of the best teams in the state. The loss just deflates you.”
Loretto scored its run in the first on single by Schaust. Pitcher Adam McGrane was on top of his game, allowing just four hits through eight innings. Maple Lake got five hits in the last two off McGrane, who worked all 10 innings.
Delano coach Steve Eilen said his team got great starting pitching from Trevor Jaunich in the shutout of Maple Plain. He worked the first six of seven innings and Matt Arens pitched the last frame.
The offensive explosion was led by Kevin Jaunich with four hits and 3 RBIs. Joey Althoff, who was second in league batting with a .443 average, had three hits. Toby Hanson had two hits, including a triple, and scored three runs. One of the two hits by Josh Muckenhirn was a 2-run double.
The Howard Lake game also went seven innings due to the run rule, but Delano was on the other end. Eilen said a costly error opened the flood gates for HL when scoring eight runs in first three innings.
Other area hitters in the top 10 were Maher of Loretto, third at .411, Schaust of Loretto, eighth at .377 and Nick Main of Rockford, ninth at .362. Beckman of Loretto was third in pitching with a 1.79 earned run average and tied for the most wins with six. Delano’s Aaron Swenson was fifth with a 2.68 ERA.