Monthly Archives: July 2014

North Star League playoff preview

By James Howell

Playoff baseball is a funny thing. After playing 30 plus games in the regular season, any successes or failures can be erased with an unlucky hop or a suddenly hot hitter. It’s the randomness of playing a handful of games to determine a season’s worth that makes any playoff series a maddening, yet enjoyable experience. In these playoffs, it’s state tournament or bust for the Saints.

After 2 years of playoff let down, the Saints are in a better position to qualify this year. For starters, the Saints will have the advantage of being the home team against Delano at Maple Lake. While the neutral site lessens the advantage, it is still worth something. The Saints also can count on a healthy John Hohenstein. The speedy center fielder went down with a leg injury in the postseason last year, which hurt their offense. This time around the Saints will also have Jon DeRock, whose 1st year with the team could be worthy of league MVP consideration.  All of these factors improve the Saints chances of winning the 2 games necessary to advance.

A win on Friday would in all likelihood put the Saints in a game against Maple Lake. The Lakers lost a few games down the stretch, but had the best run differential in the league by 49 runs.

A loss to Delano and the Saints would likely find themselves in the midst of another game in the ‘bike path series’ against Cokato.

Looking at the playoffs from a broad view, Maple Lake seems to be a lock to qualify for state. Howard Lake usually would be, but they will almost certainly face Maple Plain hurler Ben Hendrickson in their opening game. Hendrickson, a former major league pitcher, makes the Diamond Devils more of a threat than their 7 seed would indicate. Any of the top 7 teams could reasonably qualify for state.

The Saints have as good a chance as any of those teams to find themselves moving on, but must first navigate through a very tough region. Any team that can make it through regions will be poised to play deep into August.

Saints drop intense game in Maple Lake

By James Howell

All season long Maple Lake has been viewed as a consensus top team. On Wednesday, the Saints challenged that claim, but were unable to steal one from the Lakers.

Things started about how you would expect given Mitch Wurm and Tyler Zweihbohmer were pitching. In the 3rd, the Saints were able to score first with a little luck. It looked like the Lakers would escape the 3rd when Jon DeRock hit a ground ball towards veteran second baseman Nate Johnson, but the ball hit a rock in the infield and shot over his shoulder into right field, allowing Kyle Johnson to score and DeRock to go to second. Karsen Forsman then brought home DeRock with a single, giving the Saints a 2-0 lead.

Zweihbohmer worked in and out of trouble until the 5th. Nate Johnson walked to open the inning. After Zweihbohmer set down Chad Raiche on strikes, Dusty Decker blooped a single to right. Both men eventually scored, knotting the game at 2.

The Lakers looked poised to take the lead in the 6th when Raiche came to the plate with runners on 2nd and 3rd, but Zweihbohmer fanned the Laker slugger for the 2nd out. Manager Mark Forsman brought in relief ace Jordan Danielson to face Dusty Decker and Danielson struck out Decker with a nasty slider to end the threat.

In the 8th, the Lakers loaded the bases and once again Chad Raiche had a chance to put Maple Lake up. Raiche promptly grounded into a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.

For the Saints in the 9th, Kyle Johnson hit a 2 out single and reached second when Wurm threw it away on a pickoff attempt. Wurm was able the retire John Hohenstein on a groundout to stop the threat.

In the Laker 9th, Wurm singled and Brian Redemske reached on a hit by pitch. Derek Rachel came to the plate for the Lakers. Jordan Danielson had gotten Rachel looking in the 7th. This time, Rachel took Danielson’s 0-1 offering and blasted it over the center field fence for a dramatic walk-off 3 run homer.

Though the loss was disappointing, it was to be expected. The Saints have a very real opportunity to beat Howard Lake on Sunday at Saints Field. Couple that with a Loretto loss to either Delano, Mound, or Maple Plain and the Saints clinch the 3 seed in the Region 12C playoffs.

The Saints play a non-league game Friday against the Minneapolis Angels in Dassel.



Saints defeat neighbor Litchfield on Darwin night

By James Howell

A crowd of over 300 people turned out for the annual Darwin night at the ballpark. The home fans went home happy with a 6-1 Saints win.

Just as in their previous game against Buffalo, the Saints took a while to get started. The Saints were without a hit entering the 6th inning.

Fortunately, Tyler Zweihbohmer was sharp on the mound for the Saints. Zweihbohmer held the Blues to 4 hits over 7 innings.

In the 6th, the Saints scored all of their runs. Litchfield starter Brady Smith ran into some control problems after keeping the Saints off balance. A 2 run double by Brice Berggren was the biggest blow of the inning.

The Blues pushed across an unearned run in the 7th to end the shutout.

Closer Jordan Danielson looked sharp again as he threw 16 of 22 pitches for strikes while finishing off the win.

While it wasn’t a league game, it was still nice to get a win on Darwin night. The Saints have a chance to win a league game on Wednesday when they play Montrose-Waverly.

Saints roll past Buffalo

By James Howell

A strong outing by Jordan Flick and a solid offensive showing carried the Saints to a 9-2 road victory over Buffalo Sunday.

Both Flick and Bulldog pitcher Jon Euerle kept the game scoreless until the 5th inning.

In the 5th, the Saints exploded for 6 runs on the power of 5 hits and 2 Buffalo errors.

With Flick dealing on the mound, the lead was insurmountable for Buffalo. The only blemish on the day was a 2 run blast by Bulldog first baseman Ramon Vega.

The Saints added 3 insurance runs in the 8th and 9th innings.

Saints catcher Lucas Larson had a good game at the plate, collecting 3 hits.

The win secured the season sweep of Buffalo, after previously beating the Bulldogs 10-5 at Saints Field.

DeRock dominant as Saints top Hutchinson

By James Howell

Jon DeRock has impressed in his first year with the Saints. He’s hit well, been an above average defender, and on Wednesday he blanked Hutchinson for 8 innings on the hill.

DeRock scattered 5 hits and struck out 3 in his first start of the season. After this performance, DeRock can expect a bigger role in the rotation going forward.

The Huskies couldn’t manage a hit until the 6th inning, and by that time the Saints had taken a 5-0 lead.

The offense got things rolling in the first when DeRock brought home Reid Nelson on a single to left. The Saints got 3 in the 3rd on the strength of 3 hits and 2 Hutchinson errors.

In the 5th, and RBI double by Lucas Larson extended the advantage to 5-0.

Hutchinson starter Dylan Weber threw 6 innings and gave up 5 runs, although only 2 were earned.

The Saints have a few days to rest for Independence Day. They return to action on Sunday when they travel to Buffalo to take on the Bulldogs.



Saints drop non-league game to Bird Island

By James Howell

The Saints played a rare Tuesday game against Bird Island and came out on the losing end of a 13-4 rout.

Things looked promising in the 1st when the Saints scored 3 times to get out to a 3-0 lead. A 2 run single by Karsen Forsman and an RBI single by Lucas Larson did the damage.

Forsman started on the mound for the Saints and lasted 2 1/3 innings. After a 1-2-3 inning in the 1st, the Bullfrogs got 3 runs in the 2nd, and 7 runs in the 3rd to take a 10-3 lead. Walks were not the issue tonight as Bird Island collected 10 hits off Forsman.

Brendon Opsahl relieved him and fared better, allowing a run over 2 2/3 innings of work.

Mitch Kurtzweg worked 3 innings and was effective, allowing a single earned run.

The story of the game for Bird Island was their hitting, but Shawn Dollerschell deserves credit for his performance on the hill. He threw a complete game, limiting the Saints to 4 runs. He allowed 12 hits and struck out 7.

This was a good opportunity for some of the Saints more inexperienced pitchers to get some work in against a good team. While a win would have been nice, this game does not mean as much as a league game.

The Saints host Hutchinson on Wednesday. The Huskies topped the Saints in May by a score of 9-8. Hutchinson is reeling, having lost 4 straight North Star League games. It is usually a tight game when the Huskies come to town.