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Tri-City Red falls short of state berth
On just about any other day, either of the final two at bats of Sunday’s American Legion baseball Sub-State 8 final would have produced a victory and sent Tri-City Red to the state tournament. Sunday wasn’t just any other day, however.
Forest Lake’s third baseman and center fielder were in the right position to catch hard-hit balls by Ethan DeCaster and Sam Hentges and preserve the Rangers’ 3-2 victory. With the win, Forest Lake advances to the state tournament, which runs Aug. 2-5 at four different sites in the southwest metro.
Tri-City entered Sunday in need of two victories to win the sub-state championship and clinch a berth in the state tournament. They got the first win and appeared on the verge of a game-clinching, ninth-inning rally in game two.
With the bases loaded and one out, Tri-City sent DeCaster to the plate against Forest Lake reliever Joe Vacinek. DeCaster found a pitch to his liking and smoked the ball to the left side but it was right at third baseman Noah Brown. It was probably the hardest-hit ball of the game but it ended being just the second out of the inning.
Next up for Tri-City Red was Sam Hentges, who also put a solid swing on a Vacinek pitch and drove it toward left-center field. It wasn’t far enough in the gap, however, and center fielder Skyler Winning tracked it down for the final out of the game and Red’s season.
Prior to the bottom of the ninth, things looked bleak for Tri-City as Forest Lake starting pitcher Phil Sauer was dealing. Through eight frames, he had given up just one run and at one point had retired 11 straight batters. Closing out the game in the ninth proved difficult, however, as Sauer walked Joe Fredrickson and Nate Douvier to start the inning before giving way to Vacinek.
Alec Abercrombie was the first Red hitter to face Vacinek and Abercrombie did his job by dropping down a sacrifice bunt to move Fredrickson and pinch runner Ryan Plasencia up a base each. Ben Mezzenga followed with a walk to load the bases and Mitch Fredrickson made it a one-run game by drawing another base on balls.
Tri-City Red was forced to come from behind after Forest Lake scored once in the fourth inning and twice in the fifth off of Hentges, who started and went five innings. Jake Hanzalik and DeCaster both threw two scoreless innings in relief.
Tri-City struck first with a run in the bottom of the seventh when Hentges delivered a two-out single to plate Mazzenga, who led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and moved to second on Mitch Fredrickson’s sacrifice bunt.
Game two was necessary thanks in large part to Max Knutson, who gave up two runs in seven innings of work in Tri-City’s 5-2 victory in game one.
Offensively, Tri-City did all of its damage in game one in the top of the fifth inning. Austin Smestad got the ball rolling when he led off with a triple and scored on a wild pitch. Douvier follwed with a double, took third on another wild pitch and scored on Mazzenga’s sacrifice fly to right field.
Following Mazzenga’s flyout, the bases were empty and there were two outs but that didn’t mean Tri-City was done for the inning. Mitch Fredrickson reached on an error, Lars Anderson followed with an infield single and Hentges doubled to score Fredrickson. Anderson later came home on Joe Fredrickson’s infield base hit and Hentges scored the fifth run of the inning on Charlie Callahan’s single.
In the first four rounds of the sub-state tournament, Tri-City Red went 3-1 with the loss coming in the winner’s bracket final on Thursday at Midway Stadium. Forest Lake, the third seed, blanked Tri-City 6-0 to earn a spot in the final.
With the loss, Tri-City was forced to win the loser’s bracket final, which it did 5-2 over second-seeded Lino Lakes. It was Red’s second win over the 10th District team in six days after also beating Lino in the championship game of the Princeton Tournament on July 21.
Offense wasn’t a problem for Tri-City in its first two games of the post-season. Red opened the playoffs with a 17-7, seven-inning win over White Bear and followed that up with a 16-1, seven-inning pasting of Stillwater.
Not only does Sunday’s loss keep Tri-City Red (32-8) from moving on to the state tournament, it also means that the Fourth District will not be represented at state at all. The way the sub-states were set up, all of the Fourth District teams were put in either Sub-State 7 or Sub-State 8.
Forest Lake, the Sub-State 8 champion, is from the Third District and the Sub-State 7 champion is Mahtomedi, also a Third District team. Mahtomedi won the Sub-State 7 title despite being seeded fifth. Like Forest Lake, Mahtomedi lost game one of the sub-state final to Oakdale but bounced back to win game two.
In addition to the Fourth District, Districts Five and Nine were also shut out of the state tournament this year. The 10th District, the largest in the state, leads all with six teams in the state tournament and the Third District is sending four teams.
Playing in its first state-tournament qualifier since 2006, Tri-City Blue was competitive in all three of its games. Tri-City went 1-2 in the Sub-State 8 tournament and had a chance to win all three games.
Tri-City Blue, the sixth seed, opened the post-season on July 23 against third-seeded Forest Lake and kept the pressure on the Rangers the entire game. Forest Lake held on for a 4-2 victory but did need to rally after falling behind early.
Tri-City Blue struck first with a run in the top of the second inning. With one out, Mike Hankner was hit by a pitch and scored via a pair of back-to-back, two-out singles by Leo Skillings and Patrick McGuire.
Tri-City pitchers Zach Siggelkow and Sam Melchior held Forest Lake’s lineup, made up of a number of players who played in the high school state tournament last month, to four single-run innings.
Forest Lake tied it with a run in the bottom of the fourth and added single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Tri-City made it a 3-2 game with a run in the seventh. Melchior walked with one out, moved to second on Ryan Bernardy’s two-out base on balls and scored on Siggelkow’s single.
The loss dropped Blue into the loser’s bracket and it was able to stave off elimination by beating seventh-seeded Chisago Lakes 4-3 on July 24th.
The victory gave Tri-City a chance to play at Midway Stadium in the third round of the tournament on July 25th against fifth-seeded Stillwater. In a classic loser’s-bracket contest, the hits and runs piled up as both teams dug deeper into their pitching rotation.
Stillwater pulled out an 11-10, 10-inning victory on a sacrifice fly.
Tri-City forced extra innings when it scored a run in the top of the ninth. Aidan Kelly’s two-out, bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 count drove in Siggelkow, who had singled with one out, advanced to second on Noah Bluth’s walk and took third when Mike Studer was hit by a pitch.
Siggelkow’s run completed Tri-City’s comeback from a 10-5 deficit after six innings. Blue got the rally started with a four-run seventh inning that started with Bernardy’s one-out triple. Siggelkow doubled home Bernardy and scored on Bluth’s base hit.
Studer reached on a fielder’s choice with Bluth being thrown out at third and Mike Hankner singled to set up Kelly, who drove in two runs with a double.
Prior to the seventh, Stillwater had scored 10 runs in a span of four innings to climb out of an early 3-0 hole. Tri-City started quickly with two runs in the top of the first inning. With one out, Siggelkow reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on Bluth’s double.
Bluth moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Studer’s ground out.
Tri-City added to its early lead with a run in the third as Talbot Krause led off with a walk, moved up on Siggelkow’s base hit and scored on a throwing error.
Stillwater got on the board in a big way with four runs in the top of the fourth and tacked on three more in the fourth.
Tri-City Blue was able to stem the tide somewhat with two runs in the fifth as Bluth singled home Kraus, who had led off with a base hit and moved to third on Siggelkow’s single and a wild pitch. Bluth later scored on an error.
The two-run fifth made it a two-run game but Stillwater added three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to take its largest lead of the game at five runs.
Siggelkow led Tri-City’s 13-hit barrage by going 5-for-5 and scoring three runs. Kelly had two hits and three runs batted in and Bluth had two hits and a two RBI.
Tri-City completed its season with a record of 9-14.
Brian Meyers can be reached at email@example.com.