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Luverne is top seeded Region 13 team in state amateur tournament

The Luverne Redbirds defeated the Milroy Irish Sunday for the championship of the Region 13C tourney

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MILROY — The Luverne town team has won a lot of games this summer because of its ability to hit the baseball.

On Sunday the Redbirds won an important game in large part because the ball hit them.

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Three Redbirds were hit by pitches as Luverne rallied for five runs in the ninth inning en route to an 8-7 victory over the Milroy Irish in the championship game of the Region 13C tournament. Derek Lundgren had an RBI single during the rally and earned the pitching victory in relief as Luverne held on to win a best-of-three series 2-1 and earn a first-round bye in the upcoming Minnesota Baseball Association state tournament.

The Milroy Irish and Fairmont Martins will also advance to the state tourney, which begins this weekend at the three-site event in either Faribault, Dundas or Miesville.

Fairmont, the 2020 State C champion, qualified for the state tournament by defeating Hadley 4-1 on Saturday to win the best-of-three Region 13C third-place series, 2-0.

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Luverne, managed by Brooks Maurer, won its second consecutive Region 13C championship. The Redbirds were shut out 3-0 by Milroy in Game 2 of their championship series on Friday, as Windom draftee Collin Lovell tossed a shutout for the Irish and Ben Heichel homered.

But in the rubber match of the series on Sunday between the Gopher League powerhouses, the Redbirds rallied from a 5-3 deficit with the big ninth inning, which included run-scoring hits from Ben Serie and Ethan Beyer, and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jake Haugen. Gaige Nath, Phil Paquette and Skyler Wenninger were all hit by pitches during the inning.

“It was a classic matchup,” said Maurer of Sunday’s clash at the Irish Yard. “It’s always an intense game, especially Game 3 with the region championship on the line. It Was a very good team win for us, and we did some very good things all across the board.”

Luverne, 29-4 on the season, opens state tournament play on Saturday, Aug. 27, in Faribault at 4:30 p.m. The Redbirds will play the winner of a first-round game between the Buckman Billygoats and Cannon Falls Bears.

The Milroy Irish, managed by Anthony Dolan, 29-6 on the season and will open state tournament play on Saturday night at 7 in Dundas against the Webster Sox.

The Fairmont Martins of manager Levi Becker (22-11) begin State C action Saturday morning at 11 in Dundas against the Avon Lakers.

A year ago, Luverne, Windom and the Milroy Irish all earned state tournament berths. All three were shut out in their first games at the event.

This season, Luverne and the Milroy Irish are led by talented pitching staffs and hard-hitting offenses. The two Gopher League rivals are considered among the top teams in the state. Two years ago, Windom’s Collin Lovell was drafted by Fairmont and helped the Martins win a championship. Now Lovell, the former Augustana (S.D.) University standout closer, is throwing postseason shutouts for the Milroy Irish, including last Friday in the Game 2 victory over Luverne and its lineup of heavy hitters.

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“Collin is really tough,” Maurer said. “He obviously has good velocity but he locates really well also. He keeps the ball down and as a batter it’s tough to elevate anything off that.”

Luverne is making its 14th appearance at the state tourney, eight of them since 2010. The Milroy Irish, a franchise that began in 2009, will be making its fourth state tournament appearance. Neither team has won a state title.

Fairmont has qualified for the state tournament 21 times, winning state championships in 1930, 1959 and 2020.

Fairmont defeated Hadley 4-1 on Saturday to win Region 13C’s third and final state-tourney spot. Spencer Chirpich scattered eight hits and struck out 12 in a route-going performance. Tyler Tennyson homered and Levi Becker had a key two-run single for the Martins.

Nick Bruning, Alex Petersen and Derek Platt each had two singles for Hadley. The Buttermakers received an excellent pitching performance from Windom draftee Luke Gilbertson, who allowed just one earned run.

The three state-bound teams each drafted two more pitchers from the eliminated teams late Sunday afternoon. Luverne selected Brandon Alfson of the Pipestone A’s and Evan Olesen of the Jackson Bulls, while Milroy took Luke Gilbertson and Alex Fink, both of Windom.

Fairmont selected Jacob Van Dam and Max Zwart, both of Hadley.

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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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