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American Legion Baseball Sub-State Section 7 playoffs at Kuenkel Field in North St. Paul
Tournament features tight games, pitching gems and blowouts
The American Legion State Sub-Section 7 playoffs began July 22 at Kuenkel Field in North St. Paul.
There were eight teams in the double-elimination tournament held at the home field of the North St. Paul Post 39 team. Playoff games are nine-innings rather than the seven-innings played during the regular season, unless a team is leading by 10-runs at the end of seven innings.
The two local teams - the Oakdale Mavericks and the 39ers -- were both bounced from the Section 7 playoffs. The Mavericks players are primarily students from Tartan High School, while the 39ers attend North High.
After the Mavericks were shutout 10-0 by Fridley Post 303 in seven innings, they played Rosetown Post 542 in the “losers’ bracket.”
After squeaking past Hamline Post 542, 7-6, in their opening game, the North St. Paul 39ers lost to Hamline Post 418 Purple, 12-9.
Oakdale 6 - Rosetown Post 0
The Oakdale Mavericks advanced in the losers’ bracket with a win over the Rosetown Post 542 Rockets that featured the best pitching performance of the entire post-season tournament.
On the mound for the Mavericks was Tommy Hanson. He issued just four walks in a no-hit/no-run pitching jewel.
“My fastball was working, and then I was able to keep the batters off balance with my breaking ball,” said the beaming Hanson. “I tried hard to get ahead of the batters. Then my teammates behind me played just super in the field.”
In gaining the win Hanson struck out 10 Rockets. He also led the Mavericks at the plate going 3-for-4.
Oakdale’s runs came in the second when catcher Connor O’Sullivan reached on an error. Chad Tschida sacrificed him to second and Jay Zwak reached on a throwing error that allowed O’Sullivan to reach third. He came home on a wild pitch in front of a single by Eric Winter that plated Zwak.
In their half of the fifth the Mavericks produced three more runs.
Nolan Russell led off with a single up the middle. Hanson singled to left, sending Russell to third. A single by Kyle Rick plated Russell and moved Hanson to third.
Rick then took off for second. When the peg went to second, Hanson dashed home. A fielder’s choice allowed O’Sullivan to reach first. He stole second and came home on a double off the bat of Zwak.
The final run for the Mavericks came when Tschida worked a walk in the seventh. He stole second and moved to third on a force at second. He then stole home to run the count to 6-0.
Hanson struck out the side in the eighth and when the Rockets didn’t score in the bottom of the ninth, his four walks from a perfect game was preserved.
The victory set up a meeting with rival North St. Paul 39ers.
North St. Paul 8 - Oakdale 3
Playing in the “losers’ bracket,” the 39ers and Oakdale Mavericks met for the fourth time this summer. This game had the same result as the first three, with the North St. Paul 39ers gaining yet another victory.
“They gave us some early runs, but then we couldn’t hang on to gain the win,” stated Oakdale manager Doug Berfeldt. “We had some chances, but just didn’t get any clutch hits. In the end they were the better team and deserved to move on.”
North St. Paul Post 39 manager Ron Adams, commented, “We didn’t do much but give them chances early on. Once we settled down after the third inning, we played well.
“We got some timely hits and played better in the field. It was nice to get back on the winning side of things,” Adams said.
Oakdale’s Eric Winter led off the top of the first inning and reached on a throwing error. Nolan Russell sacrificed him to second. Jacob Picht knocked a single into the left field corner and Winter came home.
In the top of the third, a one-out walk put Russell on base. He moved to second when Picht was thumped by a pitch. A throwing error on a ball smacked by Kyle Rick allowed Russell to push the score to 2-0.
In the last of the third Jack Murnane worked a one-out walk. Bram Minser cracked a line shot to center sending Murnane to third. When Adam Hildebrandt singled to right field, Murnane crossed home plate. Tommy Mulvaney got on base on a fielder’s choice. Hildebrandt was out at second, but the relay to first sailed high and Minser scored making it 2-2.
In the top of the fifth the Mavericks picked up their final run of the season. Russell and Hanson walked in front of an RBI single into center off by Picht that drove Russell home, giving Oakdale a 3-2 lead.
In the sixth the 39ers’ bats came to life. Mulvaney reached on a leadoff walk. An out later, Sam Farley bounced a single into right. Steve Orme hit the gap in left center field to plate Mulvaney.
Brendan Herold laced a single into right to score, and Farley came home with the 4-3 run that turned into the game-winner.
Sam Blees was nicked by a pitch in front of a solid double by pinch-hitter Jace Piepgras that scored two more runs.
Minser was nailed by a pitch; Hildebrandt singled and Piepgras came home with the 7-3 score.
In the bottom of the seventh the 39ers put another insurance run across the plate when Mulvaney and Joe Messerole walked. They moved up on a wild pitch. A strikeout later, Orme put a suicide bunt on the ground, and Mulvaney raced home with the final run in the 8-3 39ers’ triumph over the Mavericks.
The win meant the 39ers advanced to face the West St. Paul Post 521 Challenger on Saturday, July 25. In a tight game, the 39ers managed to hang on and gain a 6-5 win over the Challenger, which finished the season with a record of 23-7.
Fridley 4 - North St. Paul 1
In the second game July 25 the bubble burst for the North St. Paul 39ers baseball players, when they fell to the Fridley Post 303 Eagles.
The North St. Paul batters suddenly went mute, and they played as if they had holes in their collective bats.
The result was just two hits and a 4-1 defeat, which ended their season - and hopes of a state tournament berth - with a record of 32-10.
“It wasn’t the way we had in mind to end the season, but all in all this season was a great effort by a bunch of really good kids,” stated North St. Paul manager Ron Adams.
“When they look back at the year they will have something to be proud of,” he added.
The 39ers scored their only run in fifth, when Herold walked and came home on an infield hit off the bat of Hildebrandt.
The Sub-State Section Tournament was won by Hamline Post 418 Purple, which now advances to the American Legion state tournament in Eagan Aug. 1-4.
Wally Wakefield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.