With an quick 2-0 series win over St. Boni last week, the Waconia Lakers have advanced to the Region 7C tournament.
This year’s tournament will pick up right where the Lakers left off in 2013: facing Brownton.
Waconia kicks off its tournament run tomorrow night, Aug. 1, in a 5:30 p.m. game against the hosting Brownton Bruins. The Bruins are a familiar foe to the Lakers, as it was the Bruins who ended Waconia’s 2013 tournament run. The Lakers have seen the Bruins just once this season, pulling off a 10-3 victory on June 27.
Playoffs bring an added level of excitement and anticipation to the field, and the Lakers are preparing to face Brownton’s best.
“Brownton will be a good first round match up for us as we’ll be playing at their home park and will most likely be facing their ace,” Ronnie Olson said. “These types of games are fun to play in and we are hoping to play in a lot of them.”
The Bruins are 21-8 heading into the Region 7C tournament after ousting Carver in two playoff games last week.
Headed into the tournament, each of the qualifying teams is able to draft a player from an eliminated team in their division. Waconia added to its depth on the mound by adding New Germany pitcher Steve Mielke, while Brownton snapped up Ross Tichy of Carver.
Just two games was all that was needed for the Waconia Lakers to take down the Saints last week in the CRVL North playoffs. Seeded No. 2 in the North, the Lakers hosted No. 7 St. Boni on Tuesday, July 22, coming away with a dominating 14-3 victory in seven innings.
Waconia led 6-0 after four innings and a dominating fifth put the Lakers on top 14-1. Waconia put up eight runs in that inning, spurred by a grand slam by Jeff Chrest, the first of his career. The Saints had a late two-run rally in the top of the seventh, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit.
Ryan Naughton picked up the win for the Lakers on the mound, throwing six innings. He allowed one earned run on four hits and struck out eight batters.
Ben Smothers threw the final inning for Waconia, giving up two earned runs on three hits and striking out one.
Waconia controlled the plate, collecting 14 runs on 11 hits. Jeremy Salden led the Laker offense, going 3-3 with a triple, a double, and four RBIs. Chris Bullis was 2-3, while additional hits came from Nick Litfin (double), Dan Butz, Peter Brown, Kevin Bullis (double), Kodey Simon, and Jeff Chrest (4 RBI).
For the fourth time in five games, the Lakers faced the Saints again on Thursday in Watertown for Game 2. Besting St. Boni 6-0, the Lakers won the series 2-0 and advanced, while the Saints were sent home to prepare for the 2015 season.
The Saints lasted nine innings on July 24, but couldn’t push a run across the plate. Waconia put up pairs of runs in the second and eighth inning, with additional runs in the fourth and ninth.
Evan Buhr picked up the Laker win in seven innings on the mound. No runs were scored on five St. Boni hits against Buhr, while he struck out three.
Simon threw the final two for Waconia, striking out five and giving up one hit.
The Laker offense continued its dominating ways with 15 hits. Simon was 3-4 with a double and two RBIs, while Olson was 3-5 with a double and an RBI. Two-hit days came from Brown (2-4, double), Smothers (2-5) and Naughton (2-3, RBI), while additional hits came from Butz (triple), Kevin Bullis, and Buhr (RBI).
During the series, the Lakers outscored St. Boni 20-3 and collected 26 hits and only one defensive error.
Throughout the series, Olson said the Lakers hit well and played great defense.
“We were happy with our play in the series and believe we have good momentum going into the CRVL regional tournament,” he said. “We made a few mental mistakes that we need to clean up, since as the playoffs go on the teams only get better.”
The top four teams out of Region 7 will advance to the Class C state tournament, which runs Aug. 15-Sept. 1 in Belle Plaine and Jordan. The Region 7C tournament begins tonight in Brownton as Young America takes on Winsted at 5:30 p.m.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]