Redbirds flying: Luverne amateur baseball team clinches state tourney berth
The Luverne Redbirds are state tournament-bound. Hadley and the Milroy Irish are still playing to determine the second Region 13C team to make the big tournament.
LUVERNE — The Luverne town team has lost in the second round of the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Association’s state C tournament for three years in a row, and this year the Redbirds hope to blast through that barrier.
The hot-hitting Redbirds defeated the Fairmont Martins 12-0 here Sunday night to win their Region 13C best-of-three Final Four playoff series and clinch a state-tourney berth.
And Luverne doesn’t plan to stop winning now.
“We feel like this is the best team we’ve had,” said Redbirds’ manager Brooks Maurer. “Our goal all year is first, to make it to state, but we also want to make it to the last weekend, that Labor Day weekend. Because when you get to that weekend anything can happen.”
The Redbirds continued their dominant season by improving to 27-3 on the season, but the playoff series win over the 2020 state C champion Martins wasn’t exactly one-sided. Fairmont topped Luverne 6-5 in Game 2 on Friday night, necessitating the series finale.
Young Luverne right-hander Cade Wenninger, whose big brother Skyler has been a Redbirds’ star for years, pitched very well in the clincher on Sunday night.
“Cade has just been ‘lights out’ the last month or so,” said Maurer. “I know he’s been working really hard this summer with his dad (former Luverne star player and high school coach Mike Wenneinger), just tweaking his mechanics a little bit. And whatever they did, his velocity has jumped up and his curveball’s been sharp. So we had confidence going to him and he proved us right.”
Right-handers Jake Haugen (9-1) and Ben Serie are the acknowledged aces of the Luverne staff. Haugen pitched the Redbirds to a 12-2 triumph over the Martins last Wednesday in the opening game of the series.
Cade Wenninger’s emergence gives them another weapon, along with Windom draftee Kobe Lovell. Throw in the fact Luverne has an impressive team batting average of .375 with 22 home runs, 76 doubles, 17 triples and more than 10 runs scored per game, and it’s easy to see why the Redbirds have long been considered one of the best teams not only in our area but in all of Minnesota.
Luverne has now earned 14 trips to the MBA state tournament, including seven in the last 10 summers. Maurer, a fine player himself back in the day at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High who played at Southwest Minnesota State, is understandably proud of his team.
“It’s fun to watch. I enjoy sitting here coaching third, because all the way through our lineup we can hit,” Maurer said.
Luverne’s top hitters are Phil Paquette, Skyler Wenninger, Newt Johnson, Ben Serie and Declan Beers. Serie has five homers.
And there are other capable sticks in the lineup.
The Redbirds’ got a 4-for-5, two-double performance from leadoff hitter Derek Lundgren on Sunday night. Wenninger also had a multiple-hit game.
Luverne now meets the winner of the Hadley-Milroy Irish series in a best-of-three showdown starting Wednesday night, with the winner earning a first-round bye at the State C tournament, which will be start in the weekend of Aug. 19-21 with games slated in Faribault, Dundas and Miesville.
The Milroy Irish took a 27-3 record into action on Monday night, after the print edition of The Globe went to press. See updates online at www.dglobe.com .
The Irish defeated the Hadley Buttermakers 1-0 last Wednesday in the opener of a three-game Region 13C Final Four series. It was a battle of Windom draftees, as Milroy’s Collin Lovell and Hadley’s Luke Gilbertson hooked up in a tremendous pitching duel.
The hard-throwing Lovell tossed a shutout, scattering six hits and striking out nine. The crafty, curve-balling Gilbertson allowed only five hits and an unearned run in a complete-game performance.
Ben Heichel’s double to deep center-field drove in the game’s only run. It came one batter after Derek Smith reached on an error in the first inning.
Dominic Dolan had two of the Irish five hits, while Tyler Peterson and Moses Dolan also hit safely.
Collecting hits for Hadley — all singles — were Joe Larson, Nick Bruning, Max Zwart, Alex Petersen and Abe Paulzine.
In Game 2 of the series on Saturday in Hadley, heavy thunderstorms stopped play in the top of the third of a scoreless game. The Irish had two on and one out when the game was halted. More heavy rain Saturday night and Sunday prevented baseball the rest of the weekend, so the suspended Game 2 was to be resumed Monday night in Milroy.
A Game 3, if necessary, was also to be played later Monday night.
The Ioser of the Buttermakers-Irish series meets Fairmont in a best-of-three competition to determine the third and final state-tournament berth for Region 13C.