For the second consecutive season, the Waconia Lakers played Winsted in the Crow River Valley League North Division title game in the final regular season game, and for the second time, the Lakers found themselves on the losing end of a close game that would award Winsted the title.
Waconia finished the regular season with a 16-4 league record, second in the CRVL North, and 20-6 overall. Waconia wrapped up the regular season with a four-game stretch last week, picking up two wins over St. Boni, a victory over Watertown, and the Winsted loss.
Waconia 9, Watertown 2
Facing the Red Devils for the second time within a week, the Lakers pulled off another victory over the Watertown team on the road July 16.
Ryan Naughton threw eight shutout innings for the Lakers, allowing the Red Devils their two earned runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Red Devils offense couldn’t get much started against Naughton, as 10 Watertown players struck out during the game and the Red Devils only collected four hits, three in the ninth inning.
“Ryan Naughton was terrific, throwing strikes and mixing up his pitches,” Ronnie Olson said.
By the top of the ninth, the Lakers held a 6-0 lead, spurred by a three-run home run by Josh Lenz in the second inning, his first home run of his varsity and Laker careers.
Waconia scored additional runs in the fourth, sixth, and eighth, before capping the game with another three-run inning in the ninth for the 9-2 victory.
In comparison to the Red Devils’ four hits, the Lakers tallied nine, including a 3-3 day from Kodey Simon, who also knocked in four RBIs. Lenz was 2-5 with three RBIs, while additional hits came from Olson (1-4), Jeremy Salden (1-4), Nick Litfin (1-3), and Dan Butz (1-3, 1 RBI).
Waconia 10, St. Boni 7
Hosting St. Boni on July 17, the Lakers came away with the 10-7 victory, thanks to big four-run innings in the second and sixth.
St. Boni was able to stay in the game with pairs of runs in the third, sixth, and seventh, capitalizing on Waconia’s six defensive errors during the game.
“We had some oopsies in the field that kept St. Boni in the game, but we had gotten up by enough to take the win,” Olson said.
Evan Buhr picked up the win for the Lakers in his first start since a shoulder treatment earlier this summer.
“It was the best outing he’s had all year,” Olson said.
Buhr threw seven innings, allowing six runs (two earned) on six hits. He struck out eight and walked three. Olson closed for the Lakers, allowing one unearned run and one hit in his two innings of work. He also struck out four.
Waconia knocked home 10 runs on 10 hits, led by Ben Smothers and Kevin Bullis, who were both 3-5 with two RBIs apiece. Additional hits came from Olson (1-3, 2 RBIs), Salden (1-4), Dylan Lindner (1-3, 2 RBIs), and Buhr (1-4).
Waconia 10, St. Boni 0
The Lakers rebounded from their previous error-ridden game against the Saints to shut out St. Boni 10-0 two days later on July 19.
Lindner threw eight shutout innings for the Lakers, allowing just four hits and striking out two for the win.
The Lakers took St. Boni pitchers Kyle Krotzer and Randy Ebert for the ride, collecting 16 total hits off the pair. Buhr was the “catalyst for the offense,” according to Olson, going 4-5 on the day with four RBIs. Robbie Smothers was a hot 3-3 at the plate with two doubles. Peter Brown, Salden, Craig LaPlante, and Lindner had two hits apiece, with an additional hit from Jeff Chrest.
Winsted 3, Waconia 2
Waconia traveled to Winsted on Sunday, July 20, for the CRVL North title game against the Wildcats.
Each team put its best on the mound, Chris Bullis for the Lakers against Tony Kley from Winsted.
“We were excited to play for the CRVL North championship,” Olson said. “We knew it was going to be a close game.”
The game remained tied at 0-0 through three innings before Winsted was able to get a pair across in the bottom of the fourth for a 2-0 lead. Waconia responded in the sixth with one run, before Winsted made it 3-1 in the seventh. The Lakers managed another run in the eighth inning but couldn’t get another run to tie the game. Winsted took the game, and the CRVL title, with a 3-2 victory.
“We played a quality baseball game, but were a couple hits short of taking the lead at the CRVL North crown,” Olson said. “There were a couple opportunities with runners on base where we hit the ball hard, but weren’t able to find the holes.”
Hits were hard to come by for both teams, as the Lakers tallied four to Winsted’s six. Peter Brown was 2-3 to lead Waconia, with hits also from Butz and Ben Smothers.
Chris Bullis took the loss for Waconia after his seven innings on the mound, allowing three earned runs on six hits, while striking out three. Simon threw the final inning for the Lakers, striking out one.
Despite losing the title game, Olson said the Lakers are ready for the playoffs, which began Tuesday.
“Our pitching and defense looked good, which is a good sign as we head into the CRVL playoffs,” he said.
Region 7C Playoffs
With the pair of games last weekend, the Lakers are well-versed in the St. Boni Saints and hope to use that this week as the face the Saints again, this time in the CRVL North playoffs. Seeded No. 2, the Lakers will now face the No. 7 Saints in a best-of-three series to determine who advances to the Region 7C tournament, which begins later next week.
The Lakers hosted the Saints in Game 1 on Tuesday, July 22. Results of that game were not available when this issue went to press. Game 2 is slated for Thursday night, July 24, in Watertown at 7:30 p.m., with Game 3 (if necessary) on Sunday in Waconia at 2 p.m.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com