**The Waconia Lakers won their first playoff game against St. Boni on Wednesday, July 24 by a score of 4-2.***
With a 9-3 win at Brownton on July 17, it looked like the Waconia Lakers were getting that final push to end the regular season on a high note. But that was not in the cards for the 2013 Lakers, at the team first fell 4-1 against St. Louis Park on July 19 before losing to Winsted on July 21 in the Crow River Valley League’s North division title game.
Waconia 9, Brownton 3
After going three up, three down in the first inning to Bruins pitcher Michael Hahn on July 17 at Brownton, the Lakers rallied for four runs in the second and third innings. The Bruins responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the third.
Waconia added one run in the fourth inning, one in the fifth, and two in the sixth to extend their lead to 8-3. One more Laker run in the top of the eighth would seal the win for the Lakers.
Craig LaPlante and Jeremy Salden were both 2-3 at the plate and together knocked in three RBIs. Ronnie Olson was 3-6, while Chris Bullis was 2-6 with two RBIs.
“It was nice to see Chris Bullis start to turn things around at the plate,” Salden said. “He has been struggling a little, but is one of the most clutch hitters on the team, which is reflected by his team-leading 18 RBIs, despite only 12 hits. The Lakers will need him to produce to make another deep run into the state tournament.”
The Lakers went through four pitchers in the team effort against Brownton. Evan Buhr started, and pitched three innings, giving up three runs (all earned) on two hits. Buhr walked one.
Olson earned the win for Waconia after relieving Buhr after the third. He struck out three batters and walked one, while letting up four hits but no runs in his four innings on the mound. Bullis and Ben Smothers both pitched an inning at the end of the game and each collected a strikeout.
St. Louis Park 4, Waconia 2
Hosting St. Louis Park on July 19, Smothers scored one run in the sixth inning by stealing home. The Lakers held a 1-0 lead headed into the ninth, but four runs for St. Louis Park in the top of the ninth would knock the wind from the Lakers’ sails.
“A fly ball that got lost in the lights opened up the game to ruin Ryan Naughton’s great pitching performance,” Salden said.
Kevin Bullis smashed an RBI triple in the bottom of the ninth inning, but the Lakers were unable to produce any more runs and St. Louis Park won the game 4-2.”
“The game versus St. Louis Park was scheduled as a tune-up for the playoffs,” Salden said, “as we figured we would see some playoff quality pitching.”
Waconia tallied five hits, one each from Smothers, Chris Bullis, LaPlante, Kevin Bullis, and Nick Litfin.
Naughton threw eight and one-third innings for the Lakers, giving up four runs (two earned) on 10 hits. He struck out three and walked two. Smothers pitched the final two outs.
Winsted 3, Waconia 2
With the CRVL North championship on the line, the Lakers traveled to Winsted for an 11-inning battle on July 21. Unfortunately for Waconia, the Lakers’ bat were as cold as they were against St. Louis Park, and Waconia had only five hits in 11 innings.
Kodey Simon had the best day at the plate, going 2-4 with an single, a double, and an RBI. Chris Bullis, Olson, and Smothers each had a hit. Tom Lyons had the team’s second RBI.
Bullis threw 10 innings for Waconia, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits. Simon threw the last one-third inning, giving up one hit which turned into a run on a Laker error.
“Chris Bullis pitched great,” Salden said. “Simon returned to the mound for the first time in six weeks, which is encouraging as he has the stuff to dominate in the playoffs. He did get credited with the loss, but like the first two runs, the winning run was set up by an error.”
Region 7C Tournament
The Lakers finished the regular season 17-6, 15-5 in the CRVL. With their loss to Winsted, they narrowly missed bypassing the North divisional playoffs. While Winsted will take that bye straight into the Region 7C tournament, the Lakers will play a best-of-three series against St. Boni later this week. St. Boni is just 2-16 this season, after picking up a win last week against New Germany.
The Lakers will host all three games, on Wednesday (July 24) and Friday (July 27) at 7:30 p.m. The third game, if needed, will be Sunday in Waconia at 2 p.m.
However, Salden isn’t disappointed with the No. 2 North seed.
“We do not get a bye to regions, but we do get to play the lowest seeded North team,” he said, “and if we make it to regions, we will avoid having to play Plato (No. 1 South) and Green Isle (No. 2 South) in the first round, which is good because they seem to be the two teams that give us the most trouble.”
The Region 7C tournament begins Aug. 1. All games will be played in Glencoe. Four teams will advance to the state tournament, and the region champion will get a first round bye.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com