By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
With St. Michael the scene for this year’s Section 2-B playoffs, the Saints came marching home to the beat of 55 runs in four games, sweeping its way to a North Star League playoff championship and punching its ticket to this weekend’s super-section playoffs in Victoria, MN.
After opening round wins of 5-2 over Champlin and 12-2 over Big Lake, St. Michael’s offense continued its torrid streak by claiming the section title this past weekend with a 16-5 (7-inning) win Aug. 9 over Elk River and a 22-1 (7-inning) blasting of Champlin in the Aug. 11 championship matchup.
The Saints took advantage – early and often – of a depleted LoGators pitching staff, which earlier in the day helped lead Champlin to the title game with a 7-3 victory over Elk River.
As a result of Champlin’s first-round loss Aug. 3 to St. Michael, the LoGators march to the title game resulted in six games over the tournament and four games in two days on the final weekend of tournament play.
“Two doubleheaders for them in two days is a lot of baseball,” said Saints third baseman Karl Sorenson, who finished the tournament with seven hits. “That wears on the pitching. We knew if we came out firing, it would put them away early and we put up a big number and cruised from there.”
The game essentially was over after the first inning when the Saints sent 17 batters to the plate and finished the inning with an 11-0 advantage.
A combination of poor fielding, lack of control and timely hits cost the LoGators early and often. Champlin committed six costly errors and five different pitchers combined for 12 walks and hit four batters in the process.
“They were kind of going around the strike zone instead of attacking batters and it kind of showed,” Sorenson said. “Everybody was hitting the ball hard and the walks kind of added to it.”
From the second inning on, the LoGators – who along with St. Michael, already had clinched one of 16 bids to this weekend’s super-section playoffs – appeared to be fatigued and disinterested.
St. Michael scored four runs in the second, five in the third, one in the fifth and two more in the sixth inning to cruise to its second 22-1 victory of the season, the last one coming July 22 at Hamel.
“We probably had our best 3 or 4 games we played all year,” said St. Michael skipper Mike Freske, who finished with five hits during the Saints’ four games in the tournament. “Everybody hit. When you can hit like that and score a bunch of runs, we’re going to be tough to beat.
“Lost in it all was our pitchers pitched really well. That gets lost at times when you score 15-16 runs in a game.”
Alan Frank started the final game and pitched three scoreless innings. Jacob Dzubay and Wade Gorsett each pitched two innings in relief. Mitch Bauer led the team with two tournament wins and Blaine Barthel had the other win for the Saints.
As a result of its section championship, the Saints learned Sunday evening they would receive one of four No. 1 seeds in a four-team, four region super-section playoff bracket.
St. Michael will be the home team in the closest region in Victoria, MN. Friday night they host No. 4-seed Sauk Rapids at 8:30 p.m. The winner will advance to Saturday’s 4 p.m. game between No. 2 Coon Rapids and No. 3 Victoria. Losers of the first round will play in a must-win, double-elimination game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The top two teams left in each of the four regions (Victoria, Marshall, Austin and Moorhead) will qualify to the 8-team 2013 state tournament held Aug 24-25 at either the Howard Lake or Maple Lake locations.
“We didn’t qualify for state last year,” said Freske, on the Saints’ 0-2 record a year ago at super-sections. “We’ve won our section a lot of times in years past. This is our second year out of three years of the new format that we’ve made it to super-sections. Hopefully we can improve on last year’s showing.”
“I like our chances because of the way we’re playing right now,” added Sorenson. “You want to be playing your best baseball in the playoffs and top-to-bottom in the lineup we are having a lot of good swings and good at bats. Hopefully we can keep it going.”