MILROY -- Irish eyes are smiling.
The Milroy Irish amateur baseball team has turned an outstanding start into an outstanding season in 2019, and despite taking their first Gopher League loss on Sunday, there’s no reason to think the rest of the summer won’t come up four-leaf clovers as well.
Armed with a 19-4 overall record, including 15-1 in league play, the Irish hope to keep their season on track tonight at home against Heron Lake. On Sunday, they were beaten by Gopher League rival Luverne by a 5-1 score as the Redbirds’ Phil Paquette drove in four runs. But it was a doubleheader day, and Milroy bounced back with a 7-1 win over Ruthton.
The Irish didn’t qualify for the state amateur tournament in 2018, but they qualified back-to-back in 2016 and 2017. And obviously, they’re hoping to get there again this year.
“We want to have the No. 1 spot in the Gopher. That’s the biggest thing,” manager Bob Dolan said this week.
Key to the Irish season is the production supplied by young players Brady Lanoue, Jake Plaetz and Kenny Morris.
Lanoue, who graduated from Tracy-Milroy-Balaton High School and will be a senior this year at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, has seven home runs and is hitting around .400. Plaetz, who set a career record for batting at Wabasso High School, is hitting well above .350 and like Lanoue is a solid run producer.
Lanoue bats third in the lineup and Plaetz is fourth.
“It’s pretty good when you’ve got a hitter like Brady and another one like Jake next in the order. You can’t try to pitch around the No. 3 guy too much,” Dolan said.
Dominic Dolan, Anthony Dolan and Tyler Peterson are also belting the ball around.
“The top seven guys are very, very strong,” said Dolan.
Morris is the Irish’s Wednesday night pitcher. He’s a righty who pitched for Bemidji State University. He hides his pitches well and comes at hitters from different angles.
“We’re deep enough (in pitching) for a three-game series. And when we get to the regions, we have three-game series,” Dolan said. “For me, it’s always about good pitching and good defense. We gotta pitch well, limit the walks, and if we do that we’ve got a core of players who come through.”
The Irish haven’t always pounded their opponents into submission this summer; they’ve demonstrated an ability to overcome deficits.
The team has proven adept at finding and developing younger players, and younger players are important to the squad’s 2019 record. Recruiting young talent might be easier for the Irish than it is for other area amateur teams, in part due to the team’s winning track record and also because of its home field -- the Irish Yard.
Opened eight years ago, it is considered one of the better ballparks in southwest Minnesota.