Traveling to the Class B Super Sections last weekend in Chaska, Isanti was on a quest to return to the State tourney after they won the Class C championship a year ago. But the ride finished just one game away from State as the Redbirds went 1-2, falling twice to a very strong Chaska squad.
For all practical purposes, the Super Sections are an extension of the ‘B’ State tourney since the brackets are mixed amongst teams across geographical regions at four sites. The Redbirds, finishing at 33-9 on the season, were the Region 2B champions this year.
Game 1: Chaska 4, Isanti 3
Opening Super Sections against the host Cubs Friday night, the Redbirds ran into 6’5” hurler Ryan Seifert who held them scoreless for six innings and finished with eight strikeouts. Joe Ramberg was on the mound for Isanti, and he also threw a complete game. The lefty allowed nine hits and struck out six, holding the Cubs to one run over the first five innings.
Down 4-0, Isanti struck for one run in the seventh and two in the eighth to close the gap, also finishing with nine hits. Eric Rysdam (2 RBI) and Tyler Schaff led Isanti with two hits each, and Brent Burman added an RBI.
“They have at least two or three guys who played minor leagues, including Seifert who played Triple A ball for Colorado. They also have several Gophers on their team,” said Isanti skipper Steve Allen. “We didn’t quite play our ‘A’ game against them and lost by one run.”
In the other game at Chaska Friday night, top-ranked Mankato slipped past Austin 1-0.
Game 2: Isanti 7, Austin Blue Sox 6
The elimination game early Saturday afternoon began ominously for the Redbirds when they had the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the first and failed to score. Sox right fielder Donte Bledsoe gunned out B.J. Samuelson at the plate after Kyle Johnson hit a medium-deep fly ball. Austin then got a two-out run in their half of the first. Isanti also got a runner to third in the second but couldn’t get the big hit.
That all changed in the third when the ‘Birds struck for three runs to take the lead. Packy Lind singled, then was forced at second by Eric Rysdam. Johnson singled, and Jake Maros reached on a boot at short. Schaff came through with a clean RBI single, and Burman and Wyatt Soderquist followed with their run-scoring hits.
Lind ignited Isanti again in the fourth as the lead swelled to 6-1 with his third hit of the game off reliever Bledsoe. Rysdam singled to right, then Johnson drove home both runs by crushing a double to center. Maros followed with another RBI single .
In the fifth, Samuelson hit his second double and later scored on Rysdam’s base knock to make it a comfortable 7-1.
Meanwhile, Adam West was cruising on the mound for Isanti. He was aided by Samuelson making a nice sliding catch to end the third, then West put down the Sox in order in both the fourth and fifth innings.
“The curveball was good today. I was able to keep them off balance. Kyle called a good game, and there was good defense behind me– typical Redbird baseball,” said West. “Having a nice lead makes all the difference. The guys getting runs puts the pressure directly on the other team and off of me.”
Big Blue Sox catcher Kyal Williams began his team’s rally with a solo homer in the sixth. They tacked on another run on a sac fly off reliever Dallas Nelson. Williams then made it 7-5 by blasting another homer in the seventh, a two-run shot to left-center.
Austin cut the lead to 7-6 with consecutive doubles off Nelson to lead off the eighth. Redbird reliever Troy Heifort then came in but walked his first batter to load the bases. Reserve third baseman Matt Duong answered with two good stops and throws home to force two outs. Heifort then struck out the next batter to preserve the lead.
The Blue Sox also got the tying run to third with two outs in the ninth, but Heifort induced a grounder to Lind at second who tagged out the runner going from first to second to end the game.
“We had 17 hits, but we should score more runs with 17 hits. But it’s tough picking up the ball out of the pitchers’ hands here at this park,” said Lind who reached base four times (three hits & hit by pitch). “Today we just did a better job at staying on it, hitting it hard and found some holes that worked. We had to tighten up and play some defense at the end of the game. It’s always good to get the last out. You know the game’s over when that happens!”
West’s victory on the mound raised his season record to 10-1. “You know, we’re a team,” said West, who played ball with Packy Lind at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and stepped up hugely in 2012 after ace Wade Reichmann went down with an injured elbow before the season started. “I’ve been playing with the Redbirds for about seven years, so I knew if it was needed, I could step up and get the job done. To be a part of this is just fun.”
“Austin battled hard. But so did Adam who threw with a hip-pointer today. The story of the game to me was Troy coming all the way back this season and getting another save,” said Manager Allen. “Like I told the guys afterward, this was a hard game to win. Tip your hat to Austin, but we hung in there against them.”
Game 3: Chaska 13, Isanti 4
In the winners’ bracket game, Mankato beat Chaska 9-2 to advance to State. That set up a Saturday night rematch of Isanti vs. Chaska, with the winner getting the other State berth.
The Cubs came out swinging against ‘Bird starter Justin Krie, opening with a 6-0 lead over the first two innings. Duong relieved with five strong innings. Isanti chipped away with solo homers by Burman, Samuelson and Maros to cut it to 6-3. Chaska then rapped out seven more runs in the sixth and eighth innings to win going away.
The Cubs now have reached State for 12 straight seasons– very impressive. At this weekend’s Class B State tourney, Chaska gets defending champ Sauk Rapids in the Friday night quarterfinals at Putz Field in St. Cloud. Mankato plays Red Wing that night at Faber Field in St. Cloud. Games continue Aug. 25, then they resume Aug. 31 – Sept. 3 at Putz and Faber Fields.
Redbird Leaders for 2012: Batting– Lind .378, Johnson .364, Rysdam .353. Homers– Maros 9, Johnson 6. RBI– Schaff 37, Maros 37, Johnson 35. Pitching victories– West 10, Nelson 8, Ramberg 5, Duong 5.