After three weeks of baseball, two city ball champions are finally crowned the 100th state championship
76 games played and 1 loss over three weekends out of 100y Minnesota Amateur Baseball Championship. The most recent one came on Monday, when Maple Lake defeated Bird Island, 6-4, for the Class C Championship in Delano.
This was Maple Lake’s fourth state championship, most recently in 2012. Bird Island reached the final for the first time, although its most famous athlete’s son – Barry Wohler – was MVP at Belle Plaine Monument (where he coaches football) to the Class C title in 1994.
The Class B title was decided in its new order this summer on Sunday in Dassel. Air Freight Unlimited defeated Shakopee 4-2 for the title.
Last October, it was announced that Class A teams—traditionally, the teams within the 694-494 Interstate circuit around the Twin Cities—would be combined with the outer ring and outdoor teams classified as Class B by the State Baseball Board’s point system.
Once you know the NBA salary cap, you’ll be invited to participate in the Point System for Baseball. But the result was a 32-team single-elimination tournament played in the same courts as the 48-team Class C tournament.
Those were Delano, Dassel, Litchfield and – in the first weekend, Laconia. All great ballparks, and Delano is probably the best out of the 269 teams that play this type of amateur baseball in Minnesota.
Mike “Doc” Nagel has been a manager at Bird Island for nearly three decades. This was also Nagel’s ninth year on the nine-person board of directors that oversees the Minnesota Baseball Association. Nagel is the cashier and helps handle eligibility rules. The main problem these days is that the 269 teams electronically offer “contracts” to the players on their rosters.
“It’s a simple process. It can be done in a minute on your phone, if you want to go that route,” Nagel said.
The new Class B tournament kicked off with the Victoria Vics fielding a roster of four out-of-contract players – thus losing out to the Minnetonka Millers, long-standing powerhouses in Class A competition.
“It was refreshing for the team to say ‘it was our fault’ and take responsibility, which is what happened with Victoria,” Nagel said on Monday night.
Once this stumbling block was set aside, the tournaments continued with minimal controversy. The C-Class drew larger crowds, as always with its extensive country appeal. The new Class B proved to be a success, thanks to the ability of the traditional Class B teams to compete with former Class A teams from four leagues in the Twin Cities region.
It wasn’t like that on Saturday, when I was in Litchfield and watched Minnetonka beat St. Patrick’s 16-0 in their quarter-final game. Then again, much as Cleveland did on Monday using center fielder David Fry for four innings against the Twins, the Irish gave up nine runs in the eighth with a matchless reliever.
Five of the eight teams in the Class B quarter-finals were traditional teams. Two of them were semi-finalists, with Air Freight defeating Minnetonka 5-2 (former As Class) and Shakopee defeating Cold Spring 11-8 (traditional Class Bs).
Air Freight is a Bloomington company that has been sponsoring a group of mostly St. Paul players since 1999. The roster is full of current and former St. Thomas players, although these days it’s managed by former St. John’s player Tom Kollar. .
“Johnny’s skills are essential for organizing a set of Tommy,” Kollar joked.
Most helpful to me is Graham Laucher, the left-handed pitcher who’s been a hit at St. Thomas. He struck out 21 Minnesota Millers in the semifinals, recording 60 strikeouts in four games — three complete games and then in relief against Shakopee.
He was the Class B Player of the Year, as well as the winner of the Mike Davison Award for Outstanding Pitcher.
In Class C, Jordan and Delano were among the favourites, and there were dreams of an amazing crowd if they met in the semi-finals late Sunday.
But both lost in the quarter-finals – Delano, 1-0, to Bluffton (with Sepika’s Colby Keyser on the mound) and Jordan, 3-0, to Maple Lake (with Dassel-Cockato’s Jordan Fleck on the mound).
When the quarter-finals ended, there was a possibility that the Billygoats of Buckman (Pop. 312) would meet the Braves of Bluffton (Pop. 212) in Sunday’s final.
Maple Lake and Bird Island ended this incredible potential with a win in the semi-finals, and then came the final – and the Maple Lake title.
“You get to the end of four games in a weekend, you play in 95 degrees, you don’t always play your best,” Nagel said. “We didn’t do that, and I’m sure Maple Lake didn’t feel that way either, but they beat us.
Maple Lake’s Hunter Malachak was the MVP (14-for-23 at the plate, plus 3-0 on the mound).
“Overall, it was a great tournament,” said Nagel. “The new B class was successful, and we had surprises and tough matches in C class. Our crowd, 28,007 in all, was the biggest since 1953.” ‘