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Jackson ready for amateur state tournament

WORTHINGTON -- When Jackson takes the field Sunday at the amateur baseball state tournament, the Bulls may be considered a little bit of an underdog.

But that's OK with manager Scott Bahr.

"There was a time in the late '90s where everyone knew who we were," Bahr, who is in his 20th year of managing, said. "Everybody knew Jackson had been there a bunch of times. I'm sure right now New London Spicer and those teams don't know a lot about the Jackson Bulls. I would guess that most people would have us as an underdog."

Jackson will face New London Spicer at 11 a.m. Sunday at Chaska, and the Bulls have one goal in mind -- a championship.

"Anytime you enter a tournament, if you don't have that goal of winning the tournament, you shouldn't be doing it," Bahr said. "We go up with the idea of winning one game at a time. It's a single elimination, so you have to be focused on winning this one game."

After defeating Fairmont 13-12 in 10 innings in the regional final, Jackson earned the No. 1 seed out of the region, and will face the Twins, who are the No. 2 seed from Region 15.

"We really don't know a whole lot," Bahr said. "We've never played them before, but over the years we've played a lot of teams from up in that area in the state tournament. We've done a little bit of research on them, and it sounds like we're similar teams."

Jackson enters with a 15-13 record, while New London Spicer sports a 12-14 mark.

While Jackson didn't have an impressive record in the regular season, Bahr hopes the experienced players will help lead the Bulls into the second weekend.

"We have several guys on the team that have been to the state tournament before, and then we have several that have never been there," Bahr said. "I'm going to have lots of guys that their eyes are going to be pretty wide open. Hopefully, they will get to watch one or two games Saturday night, so they'll know what to expect.

"It's different. There's no doubt about it. You have teams that you've never seen before, players you don't know anything about, playing on a field that nobody's been to. So, it's definitely different."

Jackson advanced through the playoffs with a strong offensive attack, something Bahr hopes to continue in Chaska.

"Recently, we've just been hitting the ball one through nine," Bahr said. "On top of that, we have three or four guys that we look to off the bench in a pinch-hitting role. Lately, it's been a team effort. We had 22 hits against Fairmont in the region championship.

"The key to our late-season run was our offense and being able to score a lot of runs. We're going to need to have that continue in the state tournament."

And while it was a team effort, the spark for Jackson starts with Andy Wolf at the top of the order.

"Andy Wolf was our leadoff hitter and was on base more than 20 times in the five-game series against Adrian," Bahr said. "He hit the ball hard, he got walked, and he was hit by pitches. He always found a way to get one base, and the guys behind him always seemed to find a way."

However, the strong pitching of Tom Hady, who will most likely be the Game 1 starter, and 2008 Jackson County Central graduate Ryan Rasche have kept the Bulls in contention in most games.

"We wouldn't be here without Ryan Rasche coming out of the bullpen like he did," Bahr said. "I think he might have pitched in all six games of the region tournament, and he was amazing."

The winner of the Bulls and Twins game will advance to the second round Aug. 23.