Isanti entered the Region 1C amateur baseball tournament with a strong focus to justify its No. 1 seed. Last weekend at Hinckley, the Redbirds opened with victories over Princeton and Big Lake to be sitting in great shape heading to the final weekend of action.
Saturday night, Aug. 6, the Redbirds held down Princeton 4-2 on nine strong innings from staff ace Wade Reichmann who struck out 14 Panthers. Princeton’s two runs came off solo homers by Jake Maros and Jesse Zimmer.
Isanti was facing Princeton ace Josh Ludwig, and they had to manufacture runs while compiling just six hits off him, with leadoff hitter B.J. Samuelson delivering two RBI. An example of doing the little things right was No. 9 hitter Wyatt Soderquist’s great at-bat to score the Redbirds’ first run which tied the game in the third inning. With two outs, Soderquist fouled off 15 pitches to wear down Ludwig a little, then he hit a slow grounder which the first baseman bobbled. Soderquist beat out the play to allow the run to score.
Reichmann displayed his grit when the Panthers threatened in the top of the eighth. He was showing a little fatigue, so Coach Steve Allen made a trip to the mound but decided to keep Reichmann in the game. He pitched carefully to Maros, putting him on to load the bases. He then got Zimmer to hit a deep fly to left which Joe Ramberg tracked to get out of the inning.
When Reichmann walked back to the dugout, he told Coach Allen, “I’ve got the ninth.” He finished with 147 pitches by quieting the bottom of the Panther order for the victory.
Battering the Bucs
The Redbird bats woke up in Game 2 on Sunday night, pounding Anoka 14-0 in a match which didn’t start until 10 p.m. because of Saturday’s midday rain storm which messed with the tourney schedule.
It took a couple of innings before Isanti figured out Anoka starter Ryan Picotte, however. In the third, Soderquist beat out another infield dribbler for a hit. He moved to second on an errant pickoff throw, then Samuelson smoked a double to the rightfield corner to score Soderquist.
The advantage grew to 5-0 in the fifth when Samuelson got an infield hit, and Packy Lind reached on an error at short, putting runners at second and third. Eric Rysdam stroked a single through the drawn-in infield to score Samuelson, then Lind rambled home on a wild pitch. Kyle Johnson was walked, then run-scoring grounders by Bud Heifort and Brian Schultz were sandwiched around a Ty Schaff base hit.
Samuelson stayed hot with a 4-for-6 night, scoring three runs. Lind, Rysdam and Schultz each collected three hits in the rout. Soderquist finished with a pair of hits and three runs.
That was more than enough offense for Ramberg who struck out nine while keeping the Bucs in check over seven innings. By attacking the strike zone and making it a pleasure to watch, Ramberg retired 14 straight batters between the end of the first inning and the fifth. Ryan Bruns, Isanti’s draftee from Champlin, struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief. Anoka finished with just four hits on the night.
“Our guys had on their hitting shoes Sunday night, that’s for sure,” said Redbird skipper Allen. “One thing we preached all year was to prepare yourself at all times for the playoffs. I think we saw that pay off this past weekend.”
Final Region 1C games
Isanti (27-5) next faces Big Lake (19-9) in the final winners’ bracket game 7 p.m. Saturday night, Aug. 13, back at Hinckley. The White Caps defeated Forest Lake 6-5 in their Sunday night matchup.
The loser of that game returns for a 1 p.m. elimination game on Sunday, while the winner advances to the 4 p.m. championship which will determine the State tourney seeds from the region.
Still alive in losers’ bracket games this week at Hinckley are Mora (14-13) vs. St. Francis (19-8) on Aug. 10 and Forest Lake (17-11) vs. Anoka (21-12) on Aug. 11.
Story & photos by Greg Hunt