By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
If upsets are your thing, then you were probably disappointed with the results of the first round of play of the Section-2B amateur baseball playoffs.
Seven of eight games played this past weekend saw the high-seeded team come away victorious in the double-elimination North Star/Metro Minny League playoff bracket played Aug. 2-4 at St. Michael Recreation Center.
The opening round of play featured high seed versus low seed each league with the winner/loser advancing in a pre-determined format.
The No. 3 Albertville Villains started tournament play dropping a 6-2 contest Aug. 3 to the Anoka Bucs.
“We thought we could pull the upset against Anoka,” said Villains infielder Jesse Berg. “We let them steal too many bases early in the game. Those guys reaching second were scoring on bloop singles, which they wouldn’t have scored had they been at first base.”
The loss dropped the Villains into the do-or-die loser’s bracket where they took on the No. 4 seed Hamel Hawks.
Unlike the previous game, Albertville catcher Ryan Haggerty made a statement early on behind the plate which Berg said set the tone defensively for the game.
“Haggerty was huge,” Berg said. “He threw out their fastest runner early in the game and (Hamel) never tried to steal again. He also made a nice diving play in the eighth inning on a bunt that helped save a run. That was pretty nice.”
Berg was also a key contributor defensively. After the Villains exploded for six runs in the in the bottom half of inning two, Hamel quickly responded with four runs in the third to close the gap to 7-5. The Hawks eventually tied the game 7-7 sending the game into extra frames.
The Hawks had a golden opportunity in the eighth inning to take the lead but Berg – who twice prior made nice diving plays to throw out potential base runners – ended the rally with another key putout from short.
“Berg scored the winning run at the end, had a couple hits and made a couple nice diving plays at short. He had a nice game,” said Albertville skipper Paul Schumacher.
Brad Koltes pitched six innings in relief of starting pitcher Jeff Jarvis to earn the win on the mound for the Villains. Hamel starting pitcher Nate Heisick suffered the loss, despite pitching in all 11 innings and throwing well over 150 pitches in the contest.
“Hats off to their pitcher and defense,” Schumacher said. “He grunted that game out for 10 innings. It’s a tough way to lose.”
The win sets up 1 p.m. showdown Aug. 10 against No. 1 seed Big Lake in the loser’s bracket.
CHAMPLIN, BIG LAKE
Even though St. Michael was the higher of the two seeds in its first-round matchup with No. 3 seed Champlin, Saints head coach Mike Freske came into the contest having to strategize.
Champlin came away victorious in two previous games this season against the Saints – both times defeating St. Michael ace Mitch Bauer.
Even with a new pitcher on the mound, the LoGators jumped to an early 2-0 advantage over Saints pitcher Blaine Barthel.
“They had a lot of confidence going in and they knew they could beat us,” said Saints manager Mike Freske. “One good thing about our guys being a young team is no matter what, they all feel they can beat anybody.”
Freske said the decision to start Barthel was a chance to set up his rotation for a potentially favorable matchup as well as give the LoGators a different look.
“I figured let’s give them something different,” Freske said. “They just saw him seven days prior and just wanted to give them something different.”
Champlin starting pitcher Andrew Evans was cruising along, throwing three innings of perfect ball to start the contest. After retiring the first nine hitters he faced, Evans was tagged for five runs in the fourth inning, sparked by a bases clearing triple by Alex Naasz.
“That was a huge hit by Alex,” Freske said. “We didn’t have a hit and then in the fourth inning we get a couple guys on and then he comes up and clears the bases. It was a big momentum swing.”
The Saints made the 5-2 lead stand and the victory set up an Aug. 4 showdown with Big Lake. The Saints would start Bauer against the White Caps – a team he previously threw a no-hitter against in a 3-0 victory June 2 at Big Lake.
Bauer wasn’t as dominant this time around, but he still held the White Caps to only two runs and seven hits over seven innings in a 12-2 victory in eight innings. The win advanced the Saints to Friday’s showdown with Elk River at 8 p.m.
Freske and Brady Jacobs each had three hits and Bauer improved his league leading record to 6-1 on the season.