BY Nik Franck
After a miserable June, the Young America baseball team put together a nice little July, winning some tough games against big South Division rivals like Plato, Carver, Hamburg and Brownton.
On Sunday, they put a cherry on top with a first round playoff series defeat of the Hamburg Hawks, two games to one.
That sends them onto the region tournament and sets them up with a date to face questionably the best team in the tournament, the Winsted Wildcats.
They will meet up in game one of the region tournament, Thursday, July 31 at 5:30 p.m.
All region tournament games will be in Brownton and all games will be broadcast on KGLB 1310AM.
YA wins 1st round playoff series
It was the only series out of eight of the first round matchups to go to a third and decisive game, and it turned out to be a dandy on Sunday.
Game one was played last Tuesday and in that game, Alex Buckentine cruised to his first complete game win of the season. He outlasted Hawk ace Mike Mueller in the Cardinals 10-5 victory.
The Cardinals lineup did a good job of working the count and building a high pitch count on Mueller, finally getting to him late and breaking the game open in the eighth inning.
YA got three in the third inning taking advantage of a little wildness out of Mueller. It stayed that way until the sixth when Hamburg plucked way for one and then another in the seventh.
The turning point in the game was in the three-run eighth when Cole Sweeney’s pop fly down the right field line found the right spot and was unable to be caught by a trivergence of three Hawk defenders.
The Hawks struck back to take game two last Thursday, 7-4, by riding the back of their big stick in the lineup, Clint Aretz.
Aretz blasted a homer in the first inning that nearly knocked a tree over to get the Hawks on the board. Then, with a 3-2 lead in the ninth, Aretz broke it open with a three run dinger that just cleared the right-field fence. The Cardinals fought back with two in the bottom of the ninth, but came up short in the end.
In game three, it was Cardinal captain Brandon Stender coming through with two clutch hits to send his team onto the series win with a 7-5 victory.
The score went back and forth in the early goings. Aretz hit another massive home run in the first. But Jonny Werner answered right back in the bottom of the first with a three run blast. He would not be outdone by injured Hawk DH Scot Arganbright (hamstring), who counterpunched in the third with a three run home, giving the Hawks a one run lead. It would stay that way until Stender’s at bat in the sixth.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Stender smacked a hard grounder to third. It came up on the heel of the third baseman’s glove and bounced into the outfield, plating two runs and giving YA back a one-run lead.
Nik Franck and Chris Kubitz came in and pitched four and one third innings of solid relief, keeping that lead intact.
Stender would make his presence known again in the eighth when he hit a long two run homer. It ended up being huge, putting YA up three, as Hamburg was able to piece together a run in the ninth which would have tied the game otherwise.