Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 8, 2003

Green Isle wins Class C baseball title

By Neil Schlagel

It is extremely difficult to win a state title.

Many events have to take place and the timing for these events must be perfect. All told, winning a championship takes a highly skilled team that helps make its own breaks, whether you're competing for the state dart title, or the state baseball title.

You need the ball to bounce your way more often that not, or the other team needs to make a mistake. The difference between a champion and second place is taking advantage of your opponent's mistakes.

This holds especially true when you have to battle back from the losers' bracket in a double elimination tournament. The undefeated team has many advantages going into the final game.

First, the team must be beaten twice. Second, they haven't had to play nearly as many games making them fresher. Third, they most likely have already beaten your team once, giving them the psychological edge.

To win a championship takes talent, heart, guts, and a little luck.

The Green Isle Irish of the Crow River Valley League were able to create the recipe for success when it captured the Minnesota Class C Amateur Baseball title Sept. 1. The Irish defeated Hayfield-Austin 9-8 in 11 innings in game one, and 6-5 in the championship game.

In game one, Hayfield-Austin went ahead early scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. They were right on starter Mac Zachow, who may have been a little tired, pitching 7 1/3 innings earlier in the weekend.

It would have been easy for the Irish to give up, using excuses as fatigue, and they made it far enough, but instead they battled back for two runs of their own in their half of the inning.

With one out, Chris Brown was hit by a pitch. Matt Breyer followed with a single, and Tim Luskey walked, to load the bases. Zachow grounded out, but beat out the double play allowing Brown to score.

Tim Gieseke, who entered the game with a tournament batting average of .423, singled to score Breyer.

Both Zachow, and Hayfield-Austin starter Bill Dunker settled down and pitched three shut-out innings.

Hayfield-Austin extended its lead scoring an unearned run in the fifth.

The Irish took their first lead of the game in the sixth, exploding for four runs. With one out, Tony Nagel drew a walk. Eric Engelmann, a draftee from the Plato Bluejays, followed with a single in his first at-bat in nearly a month.

The Irish sent veteran Mike Herd in to pinch hit for Troy Breyer. Herd drove a shot to the left field wall, scoring two. Breyer re-entered and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Brown was hit by another pitch, putting runners on first and third. Matt Breyer hit a sacrifice fly scoring Breyer. The Irish took the lead when Brown scored on a double off the bat of Luskey.

Hayfield-Austin, was able to tie the game in the seventh, but Green Isle again was able to take the lead back in the bottom of the eighth.

Troy Breyer reached first on an error to start the inning. Brown followed and also reached on an error. Luskey walked on four pitches to load the bases.

Zachow singled past a diving second baseman, scoring the go ahead run. Wanting an insurance run, Gieseke laid down a perfect suicide squeeze scoring Brown.

The Irish would need that insurance run as Hayfield-Austin scored two in the top of the ninth. Sean Breslin led off the inning with a double. The Irish called on starter Zachow to re-enter the game. Zachow already had two saves in the tournament.

The first batter to face Zachow walked and Troy Tigner drove in the last of his four RBIs of the game with a single. After a sacrifice bunt, Matt Johnson hit a fly ball to right scoring the tying run.

Green Isle had runners on in the ninth and tenth innings and finally broke through in the eleventh. Nagel singled to start the inning. Pitcher Ryan Sauter, who broke his ankle in the regional tournament and was unable to run at full speed, squared to bunt. His bunt went right back to the pitcher, who wheeled to throw to second and start a possible double play.

The pitchers throw sailed into centerfield, putting runners on first and third with nobody out. Troy Breyer drove in the winning run with a line drive single between first and second, forcing a game two.

Game two was just as exciting as the first. On the hill for Austin-Hayfield was its ace, Chris Pack. Pack pitched a complete game shutout against the Irish earlier in the tournament and entered this game 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA. Sauter started after pitching the last two innings of the first game.

Again the Irish found themselves down early. Sauter held the A's scoreless for the first two innings, but Joe Ciola and Nick Bowe hit back-to-back singles to start the top of the third. Both runners were driven in on a double by Sean Breslin.

Green Isle answered, tying the game in their half of the inning. Nagel walked to start the inning and scored on a double by Sauter. After two ground outs to second, Matt Breyer laced a triple, scoring Sauter.

The A's were back at it again in the top of the fourth. With one away, Al Dahlen was hit by a pitch and Matt Johnson reached on an error, putting runners on first and second. Luke Fischer and Ciola hit back-to-back singles, plating two.

This time, the Irish could only answer back with one run. Zachow walked to start the inning and was driven in on a single by Gieseke.

Hayfield-Austin again was on the board in the fifth. Breslin singled and scored on a double by Dahlen.

This time, the Irish answered with two runs and tied the game. Troy Breyer singled to start the inning. After two outs, Luskey walked. Both runners scored on a double off the centerfield wall by Zachow, setting up an exciting finish.

In the bottom of the ninth, with one out, Green Isle manager Joe Kreger called on his veteran hitter to start a rally. Mike Herd pinch hit for Troy Breyer and singled. Breyer re-entered. Brown singled and Matt Breyer was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

This put the Irish in the position that they wanted with the winning run in scoring position and their best clutch hitter up. Luskey has been driving in the winning run for the Irish all season long, and this time would be no different. With the infield drawn in, he hit a hard ground ball up the middle that was too tough for the second baseman to handle.

Brian Jenneke was the winning pitcher, pitching the final 3 1/3 innings for his third win of the tournament.

In the final weekend, Jenneke pitched a complete-game win over Essig Saturday, 1 1/3 innings of relief against St. Francis Sunday, and again 1 1/3 relief innings Sunday against Clarissa.

Irish members on the all-tournament team included Luskey, Matt Breyer, Gieseke, Zachow, and Jenneke. Zachow was named the tournament MVP pitching 31 1/3 innings, going 2-1 with a 2.80 era. Zachow also hit .256 driving in nine runs.

For more information on Green Isle's tournament run, and the state tournament, visit www.minnesotabaseball.org.

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