Lakers finish second in Region 7C
The Waconia Lakers were lucky to have snagged their state tournament berth before facing Green Isle in the final games of the Region 7C tournament. The Irish took the Lakers for two games this weekend, while Waconia also defeated Winsted. The Lakers are currently 26-6 this season.
Green Isle 7, Waconia 1
Things were looking good for the Lakers against the Irish on Aug. 11 when Ben Smothers started the game with a lead-off home run off Green Isle’s Mac Zachow. But that would be the lone Laker hit until Zachow left the game in the ninth inning. The Irish collected runs in the second, fifth, and seventh innings to lead 7-1.
After Zachow was relieved in the ninth, the Lakers loaded the bases with no outs on hits from Brandon Hebig and Nick Litfin, as well as a walk from Dan Butz. The Lakers were unable to get anyone across the plate, and so the game went to the Irish.
Waconia 12, Winsted 7
Battling back through the loser bracket, the Lakers took down Winsted 12-7 later Saturday night with a true team effort.
Dalton Sawyer jumpstarted the offense for the Lakers in the second inning, putting down a single, stealing second, and then scoring on a double by Peter Brown to put the Lakers up 1-0. Winsted turned around and collected five runs in the third inning to lead 5-1.
But the Lakers weren’t being eliminated from the tournament without a fight. In the fourth inning, Jeremy Salden and Sawyer both reached the bags on errors and scored off a clutch single by Eric Durkin, narrowing the Wildcats lead to 5-3. Both teams collected two runs in the sixth inning. A walk drawn by Brown and a single from Durkin put runners on base for the Lakers. Litfin singled to drive in Brown.
Trailing 7-5 in the seventh inning, Ronnie Olson started the Lakers with a lead-off double, followed by an RBI single from Tom Lyons, who would later score on a fielder’s choice to tie the game at 7-7. The Lakers clinched the victory in the eighth inning, started by a Butz single. He was sacrificed to second base before Ben Smothers was hit by a pitch, and Olson drew a walk. Tom Lyons hit a sacrifice fly to give the Lakers the lead at 8-7. The Wildcats then went through the rest of the Laker batting order, walking Salden, followed by a single from Sawyer, and three straight walks to Brown, Durkin, and Butz. Litfin was hit by a pitch to walk in the Lakers 12th run of the game.
The ninth inning passed without any scoring, and the Lakers took the game to put the team back in contention for the region title.
Green Isle 4, Waconia 0
The Lakers were shut out for the first time all season in the championship game of the tournament. Having earned their way back into the winning bracket with the win over Winsted, Waconia fell to the Irish in a 4-0 contest on Sunday, Aug. 12.
Once again, the Lakers faced a difficult Irish pitching staff, this time in the form of Pat Gullickson. Throughout the nine innings of play, Waconia was only able to collect three singles from Chris Bullis, Litfin, and Sawyer. Bullis took the mound for the Lakers, throwing a tough game, but giving up two runs in the seventh, one in the eighth, and the final run in the ninth for the Irish victory.
With their second place finish in Region 7C, the Lakers will begin the state tournament at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 17, taking on the Stark Longhorns at Faber Field in St. Cloud.
The Longhorns finished the regular season 7-15, fifth in their division of the Tomahawk East League, and third in Region 2C. The Longhorns have 11 previous state appearances, most recently in 1986, 1987, and 1988. Stark Township is located in Brown County, near Sleepy Eye.
This is Waconia’s third state appearance. The Lakers first went to the state tournament in 1931 and were state runners up in 2011. The state tournament will take place at Dick Putz and Joe Faber fields in St. Cloud.
The 48-team tournament includes four teams from each of the 16 regions. Region 7 representatives include Green Isle, Waconia, Winsted, and Young America. The complete bracket can be found on the Minnesota Amateur Baseball website. In the single-elimination state tournament, a Laker loss ends the season. But if Waconia wins Friday night, they will face the Region 9C champion Morris on Sunday, Aug. 25 at Faber Field. Game begins at 11:30 a.m.