Herald Journal Columns
September 11, 2006, Herald Journal

Another state tourney has come and gone

By Aaron Schultz

For me, summer officially ended on Labor Day, but not for the obvious reasons.

Many say that Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer because it is the last day of the state fair, and because school usually starts the next day.

But for me, Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer for an entirely different reason.

That reason is the end of the state amateur baseball year.

The Class C and the Class B state tournament championship games are, and have been, for as long as my memory goes back, played on Labor Day.

The end of the amateur baseball year always makes me a little sad, for no other reason than that I know that there are roughly nine months to go before I can get back out on the playing field.

Not that I played all that much this past summer, but still, I always miss going to the games, and everything that goes along with it.

With the season being over, I have decided to reflect back on the summer on the diamond, with some of the things that will stick with me over the winter.

Of course, my number one memory will be advancing to the Class C state tournament with the Winsted Wildcats.

As a first year co-manager with Neil Schlagel, we had our ups and downs during the year, but in the end, I was thrilled to make it to state.

Looking at what we did once we got to state, I’ll just kind of let that memory slide by, and keep on thinking about making it, and how we can do better next summer.

Making it to state was definitely my highlight for the summer, but the fact that so many other teams from the area were also there was pretty cool.

The Hamburg Hawks and the Green Isle Irish were the other two Crow River Valley League teams to advance to state.

The Hawks, in Class C, won their opening game, but then lost a tough 9-3, 10-inning game to Carlos.

Green Isle, playing in their first Class B state tournament, did very well, going 2-2 in the tourney.

Moving up to the North Star League, which had four teams in the tournament, the Howard Lake Orphans and Maple Plain each advanced to the Class C tournament, while Dassel-Cokato and St. Michael were in the Class B tournament.

Of those four teams, St. Michael had the poorest showing, winning just one game.

The other Class B team, Dassel-Cokato, fell in their opener to Cold Spring, but then won their next two games, before getting knocked out by Red Wing 5-4.

In Class C, both Maple Plain and Howard Lake won their opening two games to advance to the eight-team double elimination portion of the tournament.

Maple Plain lost, then won, then lost to be eliminated, and finish state with a 3-2 record.

As for the Orphans, they dropped their next two games to get eliminated, losing to Blue Earth 3-0, and to Union Hill 2-1. Those two teams were in the state title game, with Blue Earth winning it all.

Yep, while no local teams came home with any hardware this year, the area was well represented as a whole.

Seven teams from two leagues in state isn’t all too bad.

As for some memories from the summer, the one that sticks out is the Wildcats’ game against the Orphans early in the season in Winsted.

Howard Lake took an early, big lead, only for the Wildcats to come back and win the game 10-9.

But what stands out from that game was when Wildcat hurler Steve Bisping was on the mound pitching to the Orphans’ Adam Koch.

What made this pretty cool was the fact that Steve’s brother and Adam’s brother were standing next to each other behind home plate having a good old time.

Then, there was Dassel-Cokato’s John Riewer throwing a complete-game shutout in the state tournament for the Saints. In the game, I believe Riewer threw something like 85 pitches. Pretty efficient, I think.

There was also the Orphans’ big comeback win in the second round of state over St. Martin.

Trailing 4-2 heading into the eighth inning, Howard Lake rallied to tie the game, then took the lead when St. Martin’s first baseman dropped an infield pop up, which allowed Luke Gagnon to score from second.

Of course, one not-so-kind memory was a home run hit by Randall’s Jason King against the Wildcats.

King, who was drafted by Sobieski, hit the furthest home run I have ever seen in amateur baseball with wood bats, against Winsted in the first inning of the Wildcats’ opening state tournament game.

A few other things that stand out from this summer of baseball include:

• Not getting thrown out of a single game as a manager.

• The rain wrecking what would have been a good game in front of a large crowd at the Good Neighbor Days Tournament in Howard Lake that Friday night.

• Matt Wroge, a senior at Lester Prairie, making two very nice plays at shortstop in the ninth inning against Plato for Winsted, helping them advance to the state tournament.

• The home runs I allowed this year. Plato’s Jon Becker and Glencoe’s Jason Schade both hit shots off me during the season.

• Watching Maple Plain’s Adam Gregg throw a great game in the opening round of the state tournament to beat the Moorhead Brewers.

• The Wildcats’ playoff win over Watertown. Gregg Kohler hit a walk-off home run, and Dan LaMott threw all 13 innings in the win.

• Winsted’s 10-run 10th inning against Watertown, which gave the Wildcats a 13-3 victory, and punched their ticket to the Region 7C Tournament.

Yep, a boatload of memories, and many more that I am sure I will think of as the winter goes along, oh so slowly.