By Nik Franck
The Young America Cardinals will not only be hosting the Region 7C Tournament this year, they will also be playing in it, on the strength of two wins in round one of playoffs over the Hamburg Hawks.
Both games were epic showdowns and the fans really got their money worth.
In game one, YA jumped out to a big four run lead early off of Hawk starter Darren Greene, thanks to four straight hits to lead off the game. They would add an insurance run in the fourth, before Hamburg even notched a run.
Cardinal starter Aaron Cook had to battle without his good stuff and was pulled due to a high pitch count after five innings, allowing only one run. JP Schwartz relieved and also wasn’t his usually reliable self, giving up runs to Hamburg in the sixth and seventh, as Hamburg cut the YA lead in half going into the bottom of the ninth, with a score of 6-3.
YA had been so good at closing out games this year, so when things melted down, it was very unexpected. The Hawks tied the game with three runs in the bottom of the ninth, using three walks, a hit, an error and a balk call that crossed the trying run.
YA was able to get it done in the eleventh, with a huge two out single from Cardinal captain Brandon Stender. YA has seemingly had a different hero in each of their recent string of wins and tonight it was Stender. The game finished with a final score of 8-6, and Adam Ernst picked up the win with three good innings of relief.
Game two was a very different game. Game one was filled with errors, walks, and odd umpiring calls. Game two was a much more concise game, worthy of being aired in place of a Twins game on TV.
Former State Tournament MVP Mike Mueller started for Hamburg and was on from the start. Little did he expect Cardinal starter Adam Kostecka was up to the challenge. The first three quarters of the game whizzed by as both pitcher took a one hitter into the seventh inning.
YA got to Mueller in the seventh, though. Jon Werner led off with a single, then stole both second and third base. Clint Aretz walked and he too then stole second. With runners on second and third, Nik Franck clutched up with a big two run single, giving YA a 2-0 lead.
That was all that Kostecka needed, as he finished with a one-hitter, before being pulled with two outs in the ninth. Sam Anderson finished up and YA moved onto regions.
YA will now play Winsted, the second seed out of the North on Friday at 5:30 p.m. All games for the Region 7C Tournament will be played at Willkommen Field in Young America, pending any weather related issues.