BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Loretto reached its goal of playing in the state amateur baseball tournament played in Delano and Maple Lake, but took the long road to get there.
The Larks open state tourney play in Delano as the No. 2 seed from Region 12 at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 against Elrosa. The winner takes on Sobieski, the No. 1 seed from Region 8, at 5 p.m. Aug. 24 at Delano.
After defeating Hutchinson to start the Region playoffs, Loretto lost a heart-breaker to top seed and defending state champ Maple Lake 2-1 in 10 innings. A 2-0 win over DC clinched the fourth trip to state in the last five years.
Not done yet, Loretto kept rolling for two more wins Saturday to claim the No. 2 seed to state from the Region. After defeating Hutchinson 8-6, the Larks avenged the loss to Maple Lake, winning 10-6. The Larks lost to Howard Lake 6-4 Sunday in the title game.
“We thought we should have won the first game against Maple Lake, but played good ball out in all six games,” said Lark’s manager Herb Koch. “Our pitching has been really good and everybody chipped in.”
Delano missed a chance to play in the state tourney it was hosting with a 4-1 loss to Hutchinson. The A’s had trouble cashing in on its chances, leaving 10 runners on base. Hutchinson managed four hits off Trevor Jaunich in five innings, but was able to string them together to produce the runs.
Loretto pitcher Troy Beckman improved to 8-0 with the 2-0 win over DC, but it was not easy. The game was scoreless until the fifth when Eric Schutte slammed a solo home run. In the seventh, Tyler Maher singled and scored on an error.
Beckman allowed just four hits in going all nine innings. Jordan Flick pitched a strong game for DC and was promptly drafted by the Larks for the state tournament.
Against Hutchinson the second time around, the game was tied 5-5 until the seventh when Loretto scored twice, adding another in the eighth on a double by Schutte. Nathan Maher, Jake Braun, Randy Moselle and Ryan Tapani shared the pitching mound. Josh Hanson had two hits.
It was another dog fight against Maple Lake. Schutte pushed home two first-inning runs with a single. Two more runs came in the third sparked by a double by Brandon Scanlon, a sacrifice RBI by Tyler Maher and a bases loaded walk by Rob Doboszenski.
The Larks went up 4-3 when Luke Steinbach singled and scored on an error. A run scored in the sixth on three walks and a ground out. Loretto left the bases loaded five times.
The game was busted open in the eighth when Loretto scored four runs. The key hit was a 2-run single by Herb Koch Jr. Scanlon led with three hits, with two each by Kent Koch and Steinbach. Tyler Maher walked five times and had a sacrifice fly, so he had no official at bat. Nick Koch pitched the first five innings and Tapani finished up.
In the Region title game against Howard Lake, Braun pitched all eight innings. Tapani drove home the first run for the Larks. In the fifth, Scanlon’s single drove in one run, followed by a 2-run single by Tyler Maher to tie the game at 4-4. Howard Lake scored the winning runs in the sixth. Tyler Maher, Hanson and Braun each had two hits.
The other players drafted from non-tourney teams are pitchers Eric Hanson from DC and Aaron Swenson from Delano, who played in the league All-Star game. Drafted players can only be pitchers and cannot bat.
Loretto brings some veterans to state, including Moselle, who is in his upper 50’s in age and still going strong. He has already been inducted into the state baseball hall of fame after pitching in many state tournaments.
On the other hand, the Larks had help from some younger players. Tapani, Braun and Doboszenski will be seniors at Providence Academy that plays home games at the Loretto field. A senior at Southwest State University, Josh Hanson’s brother Andy played for the Larks about six years ago.
Sons of two former Twins are on the team with Tapani, the son of pitcher Kevin and Luke Steinbach, the son of Terry, now a coach with the Twins. Terry was named most valuable player in a state amateur tournament right out of high school in New Ulm.
Coach Koch knows little about Elrosa other than they come from a pretty good league.
Loretto played in the 1997 tournament, the last time Delano hosted the state tourney. The Larks lost in the first round to Hinckley.
The primary lineup at state includes Scanlon in center, Kent Koch at shortstop, Tyler Maher in right, Schaust at first base, Schutte at catcher, Steinbach in left, Tapani as the designated hitter, Josh Hanson at second and Herb Koch Jr. at third base.
Pitchers are Beckman, Nick Koch, Adam McGrane, Moselle, Nathan Maher, Tapani, Braun, Frick, Eric Hanson and Swenson. Reserves include Jay Schutte, Kirby Koch and Doboszenski.
Herb Koch is joined by his four sons, Nick, Kent, Kirby and Herb Koch Jr.