Wednesday, August 10
|Region 6C Playoffs|
Tigers Record 10-22, 5-11
--by Brett Kruschke
One year after beating Arlington 4-0 and St. Peter 3-2 to clinch a state tournament berth, Teenage Tiger beat Arlington 4-2 but lost to St. Peter 4-3 to fall a game short of playing for the chance to go to state. In the concurrent game St. Peter held off Henderson – who in the ninth, was an out away from the first state tourney berth in team history – 3-2 in 11 innings, to claim the RVL’s third state ticket.
Gaylord took the top spot by surprising Jordan, 3-2, in the Region 6C championship game. They also selected the top player in our hearts, Josh Terrio, in the Region 6C draft. The Islanders have a first-round bye and will play the winner of Roseau and Winsted on August 27, 1:30 pm at Dassel. Visit mnbaseball.org for Class B and C state tournament brackets and continuing coverage over the next three weekends.
This year was just the second season in the past decade that the Tigers didn’t qualify for the state tournament – the other season being 2009, which ended with a 6-4 loss to Maple Plain. That said, Team Tigertown is now 21-42 (.333) over the past two seasons – a winning percentage even worse than the 2016 Twins! What gives?
In case you missed the past two summers’ worth of Heralds, the Tigers are really young. Of the 23 players that made the official playoff roster, more than half (12) are first- and second-year players. In a competitive league, success usually doesn’t come overnight. But based on the strength of the Belle Plaine High School program, we expect this same group of guys to lead the Tigers to a land once again flowing with milk and honey – eventually.
Two years ago the Tigers lost their best hitter and pitcher when Ryan Diers defected to Chanhassen. This year the Tigers played without their newest best hitter and pitcher, Derek Dahlke, who remains in the program but spent the summer with the Carroll Merchants in Iowa before finishing the year injured. For most Class C teams – and the Tigers proving no exception here – missing such a pair of impact players is a crushing blow.
With Diers and Dahlke fronting the rotation, El Tigre would be a team to reckon with at the state tournament. Without them, the pitching staff lacks the true ‘ace’ it has so long enjoyed. Certainly there are a handful of guys that showed promise this summer, and without a doubt they will improve as time goes on and even become those aces. But for the moment, the cupboard is pretty bare in the pitching department.
The season ended with a 5-11 record during the River Valley League regular season and a 10-22 mark overall. In a game of peaks and valleys the Tigers are in the latter, but few involved wouldn’t agree that the Plainesmen will soon be a team on the rise.
BP 3 @ St. Peter 4 (Wednesday, August 10 – Region 6C playoffs, losers’ bracket)
It’s uncommon to walk away from a season-ending loss by concluding that baseball is the greatest game, but baseball is the greatest game and this contest was further proof.
The Tigers sent Mitchel Stier to the mound for his third playoff (including one play-in) start in four games, but the tall rookie righty didn’t have it. Stier was relieved by Ben Wagner with one out in the second inning and after a run was forced in on as bases-loaded walk, the Tigers quickly found themselves trailing, 4-0.
The T-Train left six men on-base through the first five innings – including four in scoring position – but had nothing to show in the runs column against Jeff Wenner. St. Peter then called on Cullen Bruce, who mowed through the Tiger lineup over the next three innings while facing just one batter over the minimum.
Second-year lefty Wes Sarsland became the Tigers’ third pitcher in as many innings when he started the third and having no conflictions, he was simply lights out. Sarsland faced just three men over the minimum during his six scoreless frames, keeping the Tigers in the game.
So here’s where two hours of agony turned into 10 minutes of ecstasy before the final gut-punch was delivered. Sarsland started the ninth by drawing a walk and was followed by a Mitch Stier single. Joe Hankins was hit by a pitch – but called back to the batter’s box for leaning into it, before flying out to left field. A pivotal moment, for sure.
Jonny Vinkemeier kept the train going with a single to load the bases, and that’s when Josh Terrio delivered the highlight of the night: a two-run double to make it 4-2 and put runners at second and third base with just one out. Just like that, the go-ahead run was at the plate.
Matt Schultz decided to save his first career homer for a more dramatic time, but he drove in a run on a groundout to shortstop to make it 4-3. After Pat Schultz walked, the spotlight fell on cleanup hitter Aiden Ladd. After fouling off several pitches veteran righty Jesse Anderson got him, recording a strikeout and putting the wraps on the Tigers’ 2016 campaign.
Leading the way offensively for Belle Plaine were Matt Schultz and Vinkemeier, each with a pair of singles. Pat Schultz had a hit and a pair of walks. Defensively, the Tigers played error-free.
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