Wednesday, August 10
|Region 6C Playoffs|
Tigers Record 10-22, 5-11
--by Manager Mike Schultz
The time has come again for the annual Belle Plaine Tigers Town Team year in review. For those of you who only read this article and not the rest of the great articles written during the year, I will cut the suspense and just tell you now, the Tigers did not make the State Tournament for the first time since 2009, and thus fell short of their annual goal. Due to the early exit, team stats aren’t yet finished so this write up will be short on stats and long on pontifications and musings from the author.
El Tigre came into the year with very strange expectations. Coming off an 11-20 season – yet a trip to the State Tournament – your hometown nine knew it might be a long season record-wise, but the Tiger Train had just as good a chance to be rolling during the playoffs as any team. Your local nine blew those expectations out of the water and started off the season 1-0, raising hopes for the season and even mustering some talk of an undefeated season.
Those dreams were shattered shortly after by a 10-0 drubbing by the Shakopee Indians. The rest of the regular season played out about as expected, and possibly worse due to the fact that many of the town team starters weren’t available until later in the season because of a second-place finish at State by the Belle Plaine High School baseball team.
The low point of the season is up for debate, with many arguing that the three games in a row that needed to be cancelled were rock bottom, while some said it was when Los Tigros had to recruit an eighth grader, an over-35 player and let Mike Schultz start at third just to avoid cancelling a league game. But in your writer’s humble opinion, the low point of the season came in another league game, when Tigertown had to grab Nick Johnson from the press box in order to finish a game in which they were down to nine available players. Morale was fairly low at that point during the season, to say the least.
The team continued to scuffle even when the vaunted high schoolers returned and your men of Chatfield found themselves in the play-in game just to be the eighth and final team in the Region tournament. El Tigre regained some measure of swagger during that game by beating New Ulm, 11-1, in seven innings.
They had their work cut out for them in the next game as they faced perennial RVL power, Jordan, in the next round. BP showed some Teenage Tiger spirit, in keeping it a one-run game through five innings, but a Brewer three-run homer put the game out of reach and put the Tiger Train in the losers’ bracket by a 6-1 margin, needing to win three games in a row to make the big dance.
Veteran and All-Star Josh Terrio got the nod in the next game at Arlington and threw well, throwing 7.1 innings and only giving up two runs. Jon Vinkemeier threw the rest of the game and earned the win – a 4-2 final – in relief.
Next up was the St. Peter Saints. Some early pitching woes led to a 4-0 deficit until the 9th inning when Los Tigros scored three runs and had the tying run at second, but couldn’t come up with the big hit to tie the game up and fell, 4-3. Thus ended a year with low expectations that still ended up feeling like a disappointment, with a final record of 10-22.
Again stats haven’t been tallied but according to the eye test, the Tigers were led offensively by Matt and Pat Schultz, who both had key hits during the year and were stalwarts at the top off the batting order. Mitchell Steir and Josh Terrio logged the most innings for your hometown nine, with Terrio’s appearances limited by a box-opening injury early in the season. Managing as always was above average and fan attendance was much more than we deserved and could ever ask for.
Even though the 2016 season was overall a disappointment, it did allow a solid group of young players to play together and learn a few baseball nuggets from the few veterans left on the team. We hope to see you all next year as this young team continues to grow and get better and hopefully starts another string of State Tourney appearances.
--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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