Milroy plays twice Monday to edge Hadley for state amateur berth
MILROY — A long night at the ballpark here Monday produced a pair of parties, and Hadley’s Buttermakers highlighted the early edition.
But the Milroy Irish won the late show amid a joyous celebration that included a trip to the big dance.
The Irish received an excellent pitching effort from Tyler Peterson and got three hits and three RBIs apiece from Ben Heichel and Derek Smith en route to a 10-1 victory over Hadley late Monday night in Game 3 of a Region 13C Final Four best-of-three series.
The victory earned a trip to the Minnesota Baseball Association’s Class C state tournament for the Irish of manager Anthony Dolan, who improved to 28-4 on the season.
Hadley (20-10) had forced Game 3 by rallying for a 5-4 victory in 10 innings here at the beautiful Irish Yard, behind the clutch slugging of Max Zwart and a walk-off RBI single by Kyler Deacon.
Both games were played Monday night at the Yard after last weekend’s thunderstorms prevented Game 2 from happening in Hadley.
The Irish, a franchise that began in 2009, have now qualified for four state tournaments.
Peterson pitched seven innings and allowed but one run in the clincher. He walked none and fanned four.
“We knew our bats would wake up after the first game,” said the right-hander from Cottonwood. “You have to put up more than four runs against Hadley to beat them. Our guys have been hitting great all year long and we knew they’d come through.”
After Peterson worked out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the first, the Irish took the lead with three in the bottom of the frame. Smith had a run-scoring double and Hadley’s defense, which had been air-tight most of the series, committed two costly errors.
Heichel ripped a two-run single in the second as the Irish added on.
Peterson was outstanding.
“Our defense made plays and our catcher (Smith, a Brooklyn Park native and former Southwest Minnesota State star) calls a great game back there,” Peterson said. “Hadley’s no cakewalk. They can hit the ball, no matter what year it is. We’re excited to win this series.”
Heichel, whose first-inning double in Game 1 of the series provided the Irish with a 1-0 victory, went 2-for-4 in Monday night’s Game 2 before adding three more hits in the deciding finale as the powerful Irish won in convincing fashion.
“Hadley’s tough and they know how to get it done in playoffs,” Heichel said. “We had to put our noses down and keep going. But when we know what we have to do and when we play as a team we’re hard to beat.”
Heichel, a Mankato native and former Southwest Minnesota State star, is a left-handed slugger who teams with veteran southpaw Brady Lanoue to provide plenty of Irish power. Heichel said when Peterson put down the Buttermaker rally in the first it provided a big lift.
“That was huge,” Heichel said. “After that walk-off in the first game we needed some motivation and a momentum boost our way. Then we got the bats going and the defense rolling and we got our heads back up after losing that first game.”
This is the best record in team history for the Irish, and they don’t want the winning to stop. Milroy meets Luverne Wednesday night at the Irish Yard in Game 1 of a best-of-three showdown that will determine first-round seedings at the state tourney, which opens the weekend of Aug. 19-21 at sites in Faribault, Dundas and Miesville. The Region 13C winner gets a bye the first weekend. The Luverne Redbirds defeated Fairmont last week in the region’s other Final Four matchup.
“Luverne is a great team and it should be a fun series,” Heichel said. “And even the third team (Fairmont or Hadley) will do our region well. It’s going to be fun to see what we all do for our area in the next couple of weeks and fun to see if we can get to that final weekend on Labor Day.”
In Game 2 earlier Monday, the Irish led 4-1 in the seventh inning before Zwart, Hadley’s veteran star from Edgerton, crashed a three-run homer to tie the score and stun the Milroy fans.
Hadley was the home team in Game 2, and in the bottom of the 10th Deacon slashed a game-winning single to left with two outs. It was an oddity — the Irish being walked off on their own field.
Zwart was 3-for-3 with four RBIs, while Deacon went 2-for-5 as Hadley amassed enough offense to back the excellent pitching of Jacob Van Dam. The right-hander struck out six and did not allow an earned run in seven-plus innings of work.
In Game 3, which didn’t start until 9:45 p.m. or so and wasn’t over before midnight, the Irish cruised.
And the party was on in Milroy for their fans and players.
“They’re the top seed for a reason. They’re darn good,” said Zwart, who finished the day with six line-drive hits in seven at-bats, plus an intentional walk. “To scratch out a win in the second game was pretty exciting for us. Kyler had a big hit and Jacob threw the heck out of the ball. It’s always fun to watch him pitch.”
Hadley, seeded fourth in the eight-team regional, now faces the sixth-seeded Fairmont Martins in a best-of-three series for the final available state-tourney berth in Region 13C. Game one is Wednesday in Fairmont.
“If we show up and play the kind of baseball we can, take care of business and don’t kick it around, we’ll be OK,” Zwart said.
Moses Dolan was 3-for-3 and Chase Dolan had two hits and an RBI in Game 3 for the Irish, which banged out 13 safeties against four Hadley pitchers.
Nick Bruning and Kyler Deacon each had two hits for Hadley.
(Had been suspended on Saturday in top of third, with two on and one out in scoreless game)
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