Only a thunderstorm can stop the Lakers; team preparing for state

Kevin Bullis stretches to make an out at first against Green Isle on Aug. 10. (Patriot photo by Todd Moen)
Kevin Bullis stretches to make an out at first against Green Isle on Aug. 10. (Patriot photo by Todd Moen)

A spirited championship game between the Waconia Lakers and Green Isle Irish in the 2014 Region 7C baseball tournament held in Brownton on Sunday, Aug. 10 was cut short by inclement weather but the Lakers aren’t complaining — in the end, they finished the tournament undefeated and are the Region 7C champs.

According to Jeremy Salden of the Lakers, this marks the second time the Lakers have won the Region 7C title since Waconia joined the Crow River Valley League in 2011. Waconia also won the region in 2011, the same year the Lakers went on to finish second overall at the Class C state tournament held in Brownton / Glencoe.

As the region’s top seed, the Lakers earned a bye in the first round of the 2014 Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament for Class C, which will be hosted by Belle Plaine / Jordan and starts on Saturday, Aug. 16.

The Lakers don’t play until the second round, where they’ll play the winner of Howard Lake / Montevideo at Belle Plaine at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23. With state tournament appearances in 2011 and 2012, this marks the Lakers’ third appearance at the state tournament in the past four years.

“Qualifying for the state tournament for the third time in four years is a big accomplishment and something we may have taken too lightly last year,” Salden noted. “Our team this year is basically the same as last year, but the emergence of Josh Lenz and ability of Kodey Simon to be able to come in and pitch for an inning or two in relief has made a big difference in this region tournament.”

Salden said starting pitchers Chris Bullis and Lenz are about as good of a one-two punch that a team can have, and the duo was the main reason the Lakers were able to secure the top seed out of Region 7C.

“Getting that top seed is huge as it gives us a bye and puts us just one win away from the final weekend,” he said, noting that this year will be the third year since the state tournament moved to a 48 team, full single elimination tournament. “We also have the opportunity to watch the Montevideo versus Howard Lake game on Friday night to scout our potential opponent going into the second round.”

As the top seed, the Lakers were able to make the first and fifth picks in the draft heading into the state tournament. The team selected Cody Hallahan of the Brownton Bruins with the top pick and Pat Tschida of the Watertown Red Devils with the fifth draft pick.

“Cody Hallahan was the tough luck loser of a 2-1 state qualifying game where he had 18 strikeouts to just one walk,” noted Salden, who described Tschida as a quality left handed pitcher. “The additions of Cody and Pat will give us a very deep pitching staff that will definitely benefit us the deeper we can get into the tournament.”

Even with the deep pitching staff, Salden said the Lakers appear to have a tough draw at state.

“We have a potential match up versus the Howard Lake Orphans who made it to the final eight last year before losing in 17 innings to the runner-up Belle Plaine Tigers,” he said.

“Also, if we are fortunate to win that game, we potentially could face the Jordan Brewers on their home field. They have been ranked in the top 10 of the rankings all year, and made it to the 2013 semifinals before falling 1-0 to eventual champion Sartell,” Salden continued.

As for the rest of the region’s remaining teams, Green Isle earned the #2 seed and will play Lamberton at Belle Plaine at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16. Plato, the region’s #3 seed, plays Kimball at Jordan at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 17. The region’s #4 seed, Winsted, faces Pelican Rapids at Belle Plaine at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17.

The region’s other draftees for the state tournament are, for Green Isle: Ryan Grams of Brownton and Andrew Weber of Carver; Plato: Dylan McCormick of Brownton and Jared Duske of Watertown; and Winsted: Nik Franck and Adam Kostecka, both of Young America.

Waconia’s road to the state tournament started in the first round of the region tournament, a 7-3 victory over Brownton on Aug. 1. The Lakers won their next game, a 6-5 victory over Green Isle on Aug. 3, and after beating Plato 6-4 on Aug. 9, the Lakers had secured one of the top two seeds in the region.

As the region tournament was double elimination, the Lakers were undefeated heading into the championship game against Green Isle, meaning the Irish needed to beat Waconia twice to earn the title. Mother Nature had other ideas in store, however, and the championship game was called after five innings.

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Waconia 6, Plato 4

After taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the Lakers surrendered a run in the second and two more in the third to trail 3-1 heading into the fifth inning. In the fifth, Waconia scored twice to tie the game at 3-3 but Plato rebounded with a run of its own in the bottom of the inning to retake the lead. The Lakers tied the game in the eighth, scored twice in the ninth and held off Plato’s attempts to rally to secure the victory.

“It was a very fun game to be a part of as it was back and forth and we ended up scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth when Jake Stevenson scored on a passed ball,” noted Ben Smothers of the Lakers.

Lenz started for the Lakers. He pitched seven innings, allowing six hits and four runs (two earned) while striking out nine Plato batters. Jake Stevenson and Simon both pitched in relief.

At the plate, Waconia was led by Nick Litfin, who went 4-5 with one RBI, and Ben Smothers, who was 2-3 and scored two runs. As a team, the Lakers had 12 hits and left 12 men on base during the game.


Waconia, Green isle

(Rained out)

The teams started playing the championship game at 1 p.m. and made it through more than two and a half innings before it started raining. At that time, the Lakers were ahead 2-0. After an hour long rain delay, the teams started back up and managed to finish the fifth inning before more rain halted the game, this time for good.

At the time of the second delay, the Lakers were still ahead 2-0. Because the teams were unable to finish the game, Waconia was declared the Region 7C champions. Additional details from the game were unavailable.


Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]