HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
August 20, 2007

State tourney memories, new and old

By Aaron Schultz

The 2007 Class C and Class B state amateur baseball tournament opened up this past weekend in Norwood and Hamburg.

This year, and every year since 2003, I have been attending the state tournament to cover it, as just a fan, or to play in it.

As the tournament approached last week, I started thinking about the times I might have attended prior to 2003, and my horrible memory was able to come up with only a few memories.

The first time, I believe, that I ever attended a state amateur baseball tournament, was when I was pretty young.

All I remember about it was that the tournament was in St. Cloud, and my family went to watch my cousin, Brad Stuedemann, play with Gaylord.

Now, this memory is sketchy at best, and I am not 100 percent sure that I was there, or if I just heard the story from my father and uncles attending so many times that I let it sink in like I was there.

After that, I don’t really remember ever making it to a state tournament until 1996.

In 1996, I do recall catching several games in Glencoe (they hosted the tourney with Brownton).

That was a pretty good year for the Crow River Valley League as that was the first year the Region 7C tournament was hosted in its current format (all CRVL teams).

The region tournament that year was in Plato, followed by state in Glencoe (similar to this year, all in the Crow).

The Plato Blue Jays won the Class C state tournament that year.

This brings us to 1997, my most memorable state tournament until 2003.

In 1997, I was drafted by the New Germany Dutchmen, and the Dutchmen made it to the state tournament.

As a draftee for the Dutchmen, I hit a pair of home runs for them in the region tournament, helping them get to the state.

And yes, I’ll be careful to make sure I don’t dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back for that.

The state tournament was in Delano and Maple Lake, with the Dutchmen playing in Maple Lake.

New Germany won that opening game, but by how much and against which team, I have no idea.

One memory I do have of my first ever state tournament game was warming up, over and over again.

Adam Gregg, a draftee from St. Boni, and myself spent almost as much time in the bullpen as we did in the dugout, just warming up.

By winning that opening game, the Dutchmen advanced to the second round, again against what team I have no idea.

This game the Dutchmen lost, but I got in, and it is one memory that won’t ever get sketchy for me.

With New Germany trailing by a run, I entered the game with two outs in an inning and a runner on base.

They did this so that I could get an at bat in the next inning.

I entered for Scottie Kohls, who was playing in the outfield.

Tony Wischnack, who was pitching, went to the outfield, and I went in to pitch.

The first batter I faced I got to ground out, but the play wasn’t made, and I ended up giving up a run.

Bouncing back, I struck the next guy out to end the inning.

In the Dutchmen half of the inning, I was leading off.

After taking a ball, I belted a ball down the leftfield line, a sure home run, but it curved foul – crap!

I didn’t see anything good the rest of the at bat, and ended up walking.

Kohls then re-entered for me, ending my game and state tournament as the Dutchmen lost the game, and were eliminated from the tournament.

After 1997, it would be a while before my next state tournament appearance, but that didn’t keep me from attending.

In 1998, with the tournament in Hamburg and Chaska, I caught a few games as Glencoe went on to win the Class C state championship.

The next two years (1999 and 2000), I don’t recall making it to state, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

This brings us to 2001, the year the Wildcats should have made our way back to state after a 50-year absence.

Playing in the Region 7C tournament in Glencoe, Winsted beat Green Isle in the opening game, then fell to Plato, setting up another game against Green Isle, with the winner going to state.

We lost that game by one run, with the tying and winning runs on base.

I’ll never forget losing that game, it just sticks in my craw.

Anyways, Dan LaMott was drafted by Green Isle after regions, and I headed down to Red Wing to watch Green Isle play in state.

With the score tied late in Green Isle’s game, LaMott came in to pitch, and shouldn’t have given up any runs.

However, Green Isle’s catcher, who will remain nameless in this column, threw the ball away in a first-and-third play, allowing the other team to score the winning run.

That was it for my 2001 state tournament, and in 2002, I skipped the tournament, which was in St. Cloud.

This leads us up to the 2003 state tournament, which was pretty memorable.

First off, it was the first year the Herald Journal covered the tournament after taking over the MBA web site (www.minnesotabaseball.org).

Secondly, we (Wildcats) made the state tournament for the first time since 1950.
State was in Northfield and Dundas, with the Wildcats playing in Dundas.

It was a fun three weekends, which culminated with the Green Isle Irish winning the Class C state tournament.

As for the Wildcats’ lone game, I’ll be getting to that later in this column.

Moving on to 2004, state was in Jordan and Belle Plaine, and while both Crow teams were eliminated in the first round, it was still pretty memorable.

First off, while the Wildcats didn’t even make it to regions that year, my brother (Cullen) and myself both played in the region tourney.

Cullen was drafted by Glencoe, while I was drafted by New Germany.

However, Cullen got the best of me this year, as the Brewers advanced to state, while the Dutchmen lost their opening two games.

At state, Glencoe didn’t fare very well, losing their opening game 9-2, but the other Crow participant (Hamburg) gave us a game to remember.

Playing the final game of the night, the Hawks and Melrose needed more than the traditional nine innings to determine a winner.

In fact, the game went 17 innings before Melrose finally pulled out a 2-1 victory.

The highlight of the game for me was the pitching of Mike Mueller for Hamburg. He pitched 11 innings, striking out 15, and giving up just one run, a solo home run in the second inning.

Hamburg’s only run of the game also came in the second inning on a solo home run by Tim Stuewe.

The 2005 state tournament will go down in my memory as my least favorite, for no reason baseball related.

The tournament was in Hutchinson and Dassel, nice and close for me.

However, work was ridiculously busy for me that August, and I never really got to enjoy the tournament, so I’ll just pass by 2005.

This brings us to last year, when the state tournament was scheduled to be in Rochester.

Well, during the summer, Rochester informed the board that they wouldn’t be able to host the tournament as they had promised, so it was shifted to Red Wing and Miesville.

This was a tough year for me covering the tournament for the web site, as I had numerous problems with getting the information up on time.

But, all of those problems are overshadowed by the fact that it was a great state tournament.

Again, the Wildcats made it to state, although we did get 10-runned in game one, and were done.

But the real story for me was the run the Howard Lake Orphans made.

The Orphans won their opening two games to make it to the double elimination portion of the tournament.

They then fell to Blue Earth 3-0. Blue Earth went on to win the state title.

Howard Lake then was eliminated from state tournament action by Union Hill, 2-1, with Union Hill finishing second.

Yep, it was a pretty exciting state tournament.

That brings us to this year, which has all the makings of an even better state tournament, that just might overload my memory circuits.

Both the Wildcats and Orphans are back in state, with it taking place back in the Crow (Hamburg and Norwood).

What could make this state tournament even better would be for the Orphans and Wildcats to both win their opening two games.

Should this happen, then they would face off Friday, Aug. 31 in Hamburg – talk about what could be one fun night!

I am getting ahead of myself, of course, but it is fun to think about.

Could you imagine the crowd that would be in attendance for that possible showdown?

Yep, many, many, memories for state tournaments past, and hopefully the memories from this year are better than the rest.

Wildcats in 2003

In 2003, Winsted advanced to the state tournament for the first time in over 50 years.

Playing Willmar, the game was tight through seven innings, as both teams managed just one run in the game to that point.

The Wildcats looked as if they just might pull the game out with three runs in the top of the eighth to take a 4-1 lead.

However, Willmar bounced back with five runs in the bottom half of the inning to seal the 6-4 win.

Willmar had a tough draftee pitcher throwing for them on this day. It was Dave Oerhlien, a lefty who had 12 strikeouts in the complete game win.

A few memories that stand out for me from that game were all of the bugs that were flying around the field during the game, making it almost look like a snowstorm was going on.

I also recall how many fans made the trek down to Dundas to support us – it meant a lot to all of us.

Wildcats in 2006

Unlike in 2003, the 2006 state tournament was far from exciting for the Winsted faithful, or players.

The Wildcats fell to Sobieski 10-0 in seven innings, and it wasn’t that close.

Winsted had a couple of chances to get on the board through the early innings, but nothing came of those opportunities.

Meanwhile, Sobieski, behind the hitting of draftee catcher Jason King, took full advantage of every opportunity.

King hit the farthest home run I have ever seen in person in the first inning, and followed that up with a double off the top of the centerfield wall in the second inning. That was all she wrote for the Wildcats.

But, the story of the game can be told with just two stats. Winsted had just three hits, and five errors.

Orphans in state

Since 1995, the Howard Lake Orphans have advanced to the Class C state tournament in 1995, 1998, 2001, and last year – 2006.

Up until last year, when they went 2-2, Howard Lake has had about as much luck in state as the Winsted Wildcats have had.

In 1995, the Orphans played Gaylord in the opening round, losing 7-4 in Perham.
Three years later (1998), the Orphans were back at state when it was in Hamburg and Chaska.

Like in 1995, the Orphans fell by three runs, losing to Watkins 4-1 in Hamburg.
The last time, prior to 2006, the Orphans were in state came in 2001.

Again it was a close game (very close), but like the previous two trips, Howard Lake fell in their opening game.

The Orphans lost to Sleepy Eye 8-7 to end their run.

Of course, I have already talked about the outstanding run they made last year (2006).

Thanks for the help

I, Chuck Schultz, and the Winsted Wildcats would like to thank all the volunteers that helped out over the two weekends of the Region 7C tournament.

Despite some poor weather, the tournament was a great success, and it wouldn’t have been possible without all the volunteers that came and helped out.