Tri-City American Legion teams gearing up for post-season

The American Legion baseball season in Minnesota has reached the post-season. Of the 135 Division I teams in the state, 16 will advance to next week’s state tournament and 15 of those berths are being decided on fields throughout the state this week.

As the host team, Chanhassen earns an automatic berth to the tournament.

The state champion and the state runner-up advance to the Central Plains regional in Bismarck, North Dakota, with the games being played Aug. 5-9.

The eight regional champions then play for the national title in the American Legion World Series Aug. 13-18 in Shelby, North Carolina. All world series games will be shown on ESPN3 and the championship game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

The three legion teams that represent the Bulletin area compete in Sub-State 8. Here is a look at where each team stands heading into the playoffs.

Tri-City Red

Less than two months ago, the Mounds View High School baseball team beat Centennial twice in the playoffs to reach the state tournament. A good chunk of the players from those two teams might be headed for another post-season showdown this week.

Most of Mounds View’s 2015 roster transitioned to Tri-City Red for the American Legion baseball season while most of Centennial’s roster plays for the Lino Lakes legion team. Lino Lakes is the No. 1 seed and Tri-City Red is the No. 2 seed in the Sub-State 8 state qualifying tournament.

The Sub-State 8 tournament runs through Saturday with most of the games taking place at White Bear Lake Area High School’s South Campus diamond.

Lino Lakes plays in the North Hennepin League out of the 10th District and earned the top seed in the sub-state tournament thanks in part to its victory over Tri-City Red in the semifinals of a tournament in River Falls, Wisconsin, last month.

“Lino Lakes will be a big one,” Stephen Grasley, Tri-City Red manager and head coach said. “We played them earlier in the year in the River Falls tournament and they beat us pretty good.”

Lino Lakes won the game 12-1 in five innings but Tri-City Red was missing three players (Alec Abercrombie, Charlie Callahan, Henry DeCaster) who were participating in the high school all-star series that weekend. DeCaster has since seen his season come to a premature end due to injury.

Tri-City Red enters the post-season with a record of 18-10 and a share of the Fourth District championship. Red went 12-2 in district play and finished with the same record as Hamline Purple.

Tri-City wrapped up its share of the district crown on July 15 with a doubleheader sweep of Tri-City Maroon at CHS Field. Red picked up a 7-5 victory in game one, which was a continuation of a June 29 game that was interrupted by rain.

In game two, Tri-City Red topped Maroon 5-2. Ryan Nickel put Red in front to stay with an RBI single in the fourth inning. Abercrombie drove in a run in the fifth with a triple and Wyatt Meyer followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Abercrombie.

Maroon got to within two runs with a score in the sixth but Meyer restored the three-run cushion with a run-scoring double in the seventh.

Prior to the introduction of the sub-state playoff format in 2013, a district championship also came with a No. 1 seed in the district playoffs. That has changed now that teams are separated into sub-states for the post-season but Grasley said winning the district is still a priority.

“It’s always nice,” said Grasley. “It gives you something to shoot for. We put an emphasis on it.”

Winning the title also gives the team a little extra recognition at the district banquet, which this year is July 28 at the North St. Paul American Legion.

Sub-State 8 includes teams from three different districts. North St. Paul Cavalry, Tri-City Red, Tri-City Maroon and White Bear are all in the Fourth District; Tri-City Blue, Lino Lakes and Chisago Lakes all hail from the 10th District; and Stillwater, Forest Lake and Rosemount Irish Blue are Third District teams.

The earliest Tri-City Red and Lino Lakes can meet in the sub-state playoffs is Thursday. Both teams open the playoffs on Tuesday against opponents that would be determined by the outcomes of Monday’s play-in games.

Tri-City Red’s first game is Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Irondale High School. Lino Lakes plays its first game Tuesday at 5 p.m. at White Bear Lake High School.

There are some other teams that feel they have a shot at upending the top two seeds and stealing the state berth. Stillwater is the third seed, the fourth seed is Tri-City Maroon and the fifth seed is Forest Lake.

Tri-City Red beat Forest Lake twice in winning the sub-state last year. In 2013, Forest Lake beat Tri-City Red in two out of three playoff games to claim the sub-state crown and advance to the state tournament.

Tri-City Maroon

Tri-City Maroon might possibly be the surprise team of the Fourth District this season. All but three members played the spring high school season for Irondale, which managed only four victories.

Despite the less-than-inspiring prep campaign, those players joined three others in early June for the American Legion season and were able to put the past behind them. Tri-City Maroon rattled off 17 wins this summer and earned the No. 4 seed in the Sub-State 8 tournament.

Head coach Noah Nesler, who is an assistant coach at Irondale, witnessed firsthand the rough spring and the bounce-back summer and considers the turnaround legion season a success regardless of what happens in the post-season.

“I think it’s a success based on our spring,” said Nesler. “I think the guys were pretty defeated after the spring. It would stink to lose two next week. That wouldn’t end it on a high note but I think overall with how much we’ve improved [that] would consider it a success to me.”

Nesler didn’t have any one aspect to chalk up the success to but he did mention one player who provided a boost. That individual is Alex Fredberg, a 2014 Irondale graduate who skipped the legion season last year to focus on hockey.

“He wanted to try it out and see if he could do anything,” said Nesler. “He’s given us a little bit of a spark.”

Among Tri-City Maroon’s 17 victories this summer were seven in Fourth District play. Maroon finished fourth in the district standings.

Outside the district, Tri-City went 10-5, including a 7-2 record in weekend tournaments. Maroon went 3-1 in the Firecracker 92 tournament in Rochester and among those wins was a victory over Plover (Wisconsin), which was a regional runner-up in 2014.

Tri-City Maroon hosted a pool in the Gopher Classic, the 96-team tournament that is billed as the largest American Legion baseball tournament in the country. Maroon went 4-1 in pool play but that one loss came against the pool champion.

Maroon opened the Gopher Classic against the Rochester Patriots and smacked the ball all over the yard in a 13-5 victory. Tri-City piled up 14 hits, half of which went for extra bases. Ben Danielson had a double and drove in a run in each of his first two at bats and Fredberg finished with three hits, including two doubles, and two RBI.

Tri-City also beat Renner (South Dakota), St. Francis and Andover but its loss to Chippewa Falls (Wisconsin) was costly. Maroon and Chippewa both went 4-1 in pool play but Chippewa advanced thanks to its head-to-head victory.

“We had them, too,” Nesler said. “We were running out of pitching and walked too many guys. That happens.”

Tri-City led Chippewa Falls 4-0 but gave up two runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh before surrendering seven in the top of the eighth.

Maroon closed out the regular season last week with three district games. Tri-City beat North St. Paul Cavalry 6-5 before dropping a doubleheader to Tri-City Red 7-5 and 5-2.

Nesler knows beating the top teams in the sub-state will be a chore.

“To beat the good teams and the best pitchers, we’ve got to do pretty much everything right,” said Nesler. “We’re a very talented team but some of the guys that we’re going to face are going to be top-notch. If we play like we’ve played most of the summer, we have a chance to be in, if not win, every game.”

Maroon went 5-3 against Sub-State 8 teams this summer. They beat White Bear and North St. Paul Cavalry twice each and also topped Forest Lake. The losses were to Stillwater, the third seed, and Tri-City Red twice.

“They’ve beaten us twice but if we get them in the playoffs, it’s tough to beat a team three times,” Nesler said of Tri-City Red. “Hopefully we can get a little momentum.”

Tri-City Maroon opened the playoffs on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Irondale against fifth-seeded Forest Lake. A win on Tuesday sends Maroon to a second-round game on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at CHS Field while a loss would drop it into the loser’s bracket and a 2 p.m. game Wednesday at White Bear Lake High School.

Tri-City Blue

Even when St. Anthony Village High School’s baseball team is at its best, Tri-City Blue has trouble competing in the summer. This year’s St. Anthony team had a sub-par season by its standards and Tri-City Blue has struggled even more trying to find victories.

Tri-City Blue entered this week’s Sub-State 8 tournament as the No. 9 seed and faced eighth-seeded White Bear on Monday, past the deadline for this edition of the Bulletin.

Among Tri-City’s victories this season was a 7-4 triumph over Osseo and a 4-1 win against Fridley in June. Blue also beat Champlin 8-6 earlier this month.

Of the 10 teams in Sub-State 8, Tri-City Blue has the smallest roster at only 13 players. The maximum allowed on one team is 18.

There were two playoff games on Monday and the two losing teams were eliminated. The two winners advanced to the double-elimination portion of the tournament that began on Tuesday.

Blue entered its game on Monday looking to snap a three-game playoff losing streak. Last year as the eighth seed, Tri-City Blue lost 12-2 to Tri-City Red and 15-8 to Stillwater.

In 2013, the first year of the sub-state format, Blue went 1-2 in three closely-contested games. Tri-City opened the tournament with a 4-2 loss to eventual sub-state champion Forest Lake, bounced back to eliminate Chisago Lakes 4-3 and then bowed out of the tournament in an 11-10 loss to Stillwater.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.


Sub-State 8 playoffs

(Seeds in parentheses)

Single-elimination round, Monday, 5 p.m.
Game 1 — Rosemount Irish Blue (10) vs. North St. Paul Cavalry (7) at Irondale High School
Game 2 — Tri-City Blue (9) vs. White Bear (8) at White Bear Lake High School

Double elimination - First round, Tuesday
Game 1 — Chisago Lakes (6) vs. Stillwater (3) at White Bear Lake High School, 2 p.m.
Game 2 — Forest Lake (5) vs. Tri-City Maroon (4) at Irondale High School, 2 p.m.
Game 3 — TBD vs. Tri-City Red (2) at Irondale High School, 5 p.m.
Game 4 — TBD vs. Lino Lakes (1) at White Bear Lake High School, 5 p.m.

Second round, Wednesday at White Bear Lake High School unless noted
Game 5 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 11 a.m.
Game 6 — Game 2 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2 p.m.
Game 7 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 5 p.m.
Game 8 — Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6 p.m. at CHS Field

Third round, Thursday at White Bear Lake High School
Game 9 — Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 11 a.m.
Game 10 — Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 2 p.m.
Game 11 — Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 5 p.m.

Fourth round, Friday at White Bear Lake High School
Game 12 — Game 9 winner vs. Game 11 loser, 2 p.m.
Game 13 — Game 10 winner vs. Game 11 winner, 5 p.m.

Championship round, Saturday at White Bear Lake High School
Game 14 — Game 12 winner vs. Game 13 winner, 12 p.m.
Game 15 — Game 12 winner vs. Game 13 winner, 3 p.m. (If necessary)


Fourth District American Legion baseball standings (final)
  W-L Games behind
Tri-City Red 12-2 -
Hamline Purple 12-2 -
NSP 39ers 9 1/2-4 1/2 2 1/2
Tri-City Maroon 7 1/2-6 1/2 4 1/2
Hamline Red 7-7 5
Rosetown 4-10 8
NSP Cavalry 2 1/2-10 1/2 9 1/2
White Bear 1 1/2-11 1/2 10 1/2

 

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