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Amateur baseball: Now the playoff season begins

The amateur baseball playoffs begin Wednesday in southwest Minnesota

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The Windom Pirates and Milroy Irish have earned a little relaxation this week as the amateur baseball playoffs begin in southwest Minnesota.

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But for the rest of the First Nite League and Gopher League teams, it’s time to keep grinding.

Windom won its second straight First Nite League regular-season championship with a 16-3 league mark. Manager Nick Kulseth’s Pirates have one of the top pitching staffs around and it will be well-rested when the team begins its state-tourney quest on Wednesday, July 27. That’s because regular-season champs earn first-round playoff byes.

The Milroy Irish claimed the Gopher League regular-season title with an 18-1 record. That was one game better than last year’s champion, the Luverne Redbirds.

Luverne will join 11 other First Nite and Gopher League teams in best-of-three playoff series that begin Wednesday night. The series all feature Gopher League vs. First Nite League matchups.

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The six first-round series winners advance and will be re-seeded, along with Windom and Milroy, as the Region 13C playoffs start next week. Three teams from Region 13C will ultimately advance to the Minnesota Baseball Association state tournament, slated later this summer in Faribault, Dundas and Miesville.

Last season, teams from Luverne, Windom and Milroy earned state-tourney spots. This year all three are favored to return to the big show.

But there are several other contenders who hope to join the party.

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The Hadley Buttermakers had their run of six straight state-tournament berths ended last season. This season manager Myron Bennett’s club is among those hoping to return to the spotlight. Hadley earned victories over Adrian (10-5) and Ruthton (6-1) last weekend, as veteran standout Sam Erickson and youthful star Jacob Van Dam picked up the mound victories. Workhorse Avery Weber pitched well in relief in both games.

Trent Carlson was 4-for-4 with three RBIs against Adrian, while Nick Bruning and Danny Blankenship combined for three hits and five RBIs against Ruthton.

Shortstop Derek Platt and reliable veteran Joe Larson led Hadley’s errorless defense over the weekend.

“Derek has solidified our infield. He’s been a big key to our success defensively,” Bennett said. “We’ve had a good season. Sam and Jacob are tough and we have Avery for Game 3. I like our chances in two-out-of-three series against anyone.”

Van Dam, a former Edgerton Southwest Christian prep star college basketball and a baseball standout at Crown University, threw a no-hitter against Ruthton earlier this season. On Sunday he didn’t allow much hard contact at all in an impressive performance.

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“I think we’re priming at the right time,” the sidearm slinger Van Dam said. “We always come alive at the playoffs. I think we’ve got a good chance to be one of the last four teams alive, and then we’ll see what happens.”

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Tucker Sorenson, Mike Preuss and Nick Harder each had two hits for Adrian against Hadley. Ruthton’s effort was led offensively Ryan Bridgewater, who was 3-for-4, and Mitchell Biever, who had two hits.

In other games involving First Nite and Gopher League teams last week it was:

Heron Lake 8, Fox Lake 4 (7)

HERON LAKE — The host Lakers scored six runs with two out in the sixth to rally past the Foxes.

Heron Lake had four straight run-scoring singles with two out in the sixth, by Jonathan Vega, Lucas Knutson, Angel Molina and Manny Rodriguez.

Cesar Otero was the winning pitcher for Heron Lake. Manager Chad Knutson picked up the save.

Adrian 9, Lakefield 8

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ADRIAN —Brandon Veen scored from first when Ian Stamer’s bunt single was thrown away as host Adrian earned a wild win over Lakefield on Sunday.

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Adrian trailed 5-3 with two down in the eighth, but rallied on clutch run-scoring hits from Mike Preuss, Jakob Olson, Nathan Klingenberg and Jake Stamer.

Lakefield tied the game at ninth, but in the bottom of the frame Veen led off with a hit and came around to score the game-winner on an error.

Jake Stamer pitched well into the eighth inning for Adrian, while Tucker Sorenson earned the victory in relief.

“We’ve had a roller coaster of a year and it’s time to step it up,” said Adrian manager Mike Preuss, whose team opens the playoffs Wednesday at Lakefield and hosts Game 2 of the series in conjunction with a town celebration Friday night in Adrian. “The team knows where we are at ... As a team we had 12 hits in Hadley on Saturday and 16 on Sunday in Adrian. If we keep things clean defensively we should be a fun group to watch in the playoffs.”

Windom 9, Pipestone 6

PIPESTONE — Braydon Kreofsky had three hits and four RBIs as the Pirates won on Saturday.

Josh Garrison earned his first pitching victory of the summer, with relief help from Nick Kulseth and Collin Lovell.

Lamberton 12, Windom 8

LAMBERTON — Noah Kloss had two hits and three RBIs but the Pirates dropped a non-league game on Friday.

Windom 12, Mountain Lake 1

WINDOM — Kobe Lovell pitched six scoreless innings and struck out seven as the Pirates won last Wednesday. Alex Fink had three doubles, while Kyle Espenson, Noah Kloss, Nick Christensen and Kobe Lovell had two hits each.

STANDINGS

(Final Regular Season; League games only)

First Nite League—1, Windom Pirates 16-3; 2, Jackson 13-6; 3, Fairmont Martins 12-7; 4, Fox Lake Foxes 7-12; 5, Lakefield Frogs 7-12; 6, Mountain Lake Lakers 6-12; 7, Heron Lake Lakers 3-16 (note: Fox Lake won coin flip with Lakefield for fifth place)

Gopher League—1, Milroy Irish 18-1; 2, Luverne Redbirds 17-2; 3, Hadley Buttermakers 14-5; 4, Adrian A’s 7-12; 5, Ruthton Royals 5-14; 6, Pipestone A’s 5-14; 7, Worthington Cubs 2-16 (note: Ruthton won tiebreaker over Pipestone for sixth place)

PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

(Regular-season champions Windom, Milroy Irish have byes)

All Series best-of-3

ADRIAN vs. LAKEFIELD

Wednesday—at Lakefield, 7:30; Friday—at Adrian, 7:30; Sunday, if necessary—at Adrian, 2:00

JACKSON vs. WORTHINGTON

Wednesday—at Jackson, 7:30; Friday—at Worthington, 7:30; Sunday, if necessary—at Jackson, 2:00

FOX LAKE vs. RUTHTON

Wednesday—at Truman, 7:30; Friday—at Ruthton, 7:30; Sunday, if necessary—at Truman, 2:00

FAIRMONT vs. PIPESTONE

Wednesday—at Fairmont, 7:30; Friday—at Pipestone, 7:30; Sunday, if necessary—at Fairmont, 2:00

HADLEY vs. MOUNTAIN LAKE

Wednesday—at Worthington, 7:30; Saturday—at Hadley, 2:00; Sunday, if necessary—at Hadley, 2:00

LUVERNE vs. HERON LAKE

Wednesday—at Luverne, 7:30; Saturday—at Heron Lake, 2:00; Sunday, if necessary—at Luverne, 2:00

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Scott Mansch, who in a crowded Viking tavern has been known to say “Go Pack Go” at times in complete disregard for his health, can be reached at smansch5rockets@gmail.com
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