By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
If the Rogers Red Devils were going to make it past the opening round of the Section-2B amateur baseball playoffs, they needed to win at least one game – something they were able to accomplish only once all season.
The Red Devils lost all but one contest this season – a 10-1 victory on June 26 against Albertville.
Top-seed Big Lake made sure Rogers would continue its losing ways, defeating the Red Devils 11-0 in the opening round Aug. 3 at the St. Michael Recreation Center.
The loss set up a showdown the next day with Champlin. Starting pitcher Jaylen Hakes was tagged for two early runs as the LoGators jumped to an early 2-0 first-inning lead. Hakes would later settle into a groove and a fourth inning, two-out RBI single by first baseman/manager Aaron Cook cut the deficit in half 2-1.
“Jaylen went six strong and really did a good job of keeping us in the game early,” Cook said.
Hakes retired seven in a row at one point, but ran into trouble in the fifth inning. After allowing a run to score on a wild pitch, Champlin increased its lead to 5-1 later that inning thanks to a home run off the bat of Jeff Heuer.
The Red Devils had numerous chances to tie or take the lead prior to Champlin’s three-run fifth inning. Rogers loaded the bases in both the fifth and sixth innings, but each time came away empty handed.
“We did a good job of getting runners on base,” Cook said. “We were just a big hit away. That’s kind of been the problem all season is getting that clutch hit when we needed it the most.”
Rogers’ pitchers Dylan Morris and Garrett Watters combined for three scoreless innings in relief, but Champlin’s Ryan Bruns and Alex Nienaber were equal to the task in relief of starting and winning pitcher Andrew Evans. The three pitchers all wiggled in-and-out of jams earning a 5-1 victory.
In a season where numbers were down and talent was young, Cook said he still has hopes for optimism for next year’s squad.
“Town ball you never know who is coming back,” Cook said. “Pitching and catching was kind of weak. From what I know, a lot of the guys are coming back. We could definitely add another pitcher or catcher though for next year.”