Down stretch, Bandits tie for EML West title

Bandit Tim Koplitz showed his veteran savvy by eluding the tag of Hinckley catcher Nate Sweeny  during his team’s 9-4 win July 17. Koplitz scored from third on Josh Coleman’s blooper to center in the fourth inning.  Photos by Greg Hunt

Bandit Tim Koplitz showed his veteran savvy by eluding the tag of Hinckley catcher Nate Sweeny during his team’s 9-4 win July 17. Koplitz scored from third on Josh Coleman’s blooper to center in the fourth inning.  Photos by Greg Hunt

Playoffs begin this weekend:  Rum River earned a share of its first Eastern Minny League regular-season title with two huge victories last week. The Bandits enter this weekend’s EML West playoffs at Hinckley on a four-game win streak.

On July 17 in the “home” game at Hinckley, Rum River defeated EML East power Hinckley 9-4 with a good all-around night of baseball. Tyler Krondstedt limited any Knights’ damage with seven strong innings on the mound, racking up five strikeouts. Andy Julkowski relieved with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth and got out of trouble with no runs scoring. He then threw a scoreless ninth for the save.

Tyler Kronstedt threw seven good innings against the Knights, striking out five and giving up just two earned runs.

Tyler Kronstedt threw seven good innings against the Knights, striking out five and giving up just two earned runs.

The Bandits jumped to a 3-1 lead in the first inning, helped by two Hinckley errors. The lead increased to 5-1 in the third when Nate Knudsen bunted for a hit, Julkowski smoked a line shot to right which got past the Knight outfielder, then Kronstedt flipped a flare to left.

Rum River kept the pressure on with two more runs in the fourth. Tim Koplitz singled, and Mike Scardigli’s bunt was thrown away at first. Josh Coleman followed with a blooper to center, and Koplitz made a heads-up slide to avoid the perfect throw to the plate. Scardigli later came home on yet another Hinckley error.

The Bandits’ defense backed up Krondstedt nicely, which included a diving catch by Kevin Auth in left in the fifth and Julkowski turning a 6-3 double play in the sixth. Julkowski and Knudsen supplied RBI singles in the Bandits’ half  of the sixth.

• Rum River tied Princeton at 10-7 in EML games by rallying to defeat host Sartell 5-3 July 19. Coleman pitched 8.6 innings of outstanding ball, giving up only six hits. Auth got the save by striking out the last Stone Poney with runners on second and third. Coleman finished with three hits at the plate, and rookie Mitch Renstrom added a key pinch-hit single during the Bandits’ three-run top of the ninth.

Those two teams will square off again in the opening game of the EML West playoffs at Hinckley, taking the field at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 27 as the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds (Princeton took the tie-break for the No. 1 seed and plays No. 4 Nowthen at 4:30 p.m.). A Bandit loss would have them playing at 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning; a win sends them to the 4:30 p.m. game Sunday afternoon in Hinckley.

Rum River shortstop Andy Julkowski had a big night at Hinckley July 17, driving in four runs on three hits.

Rum River shortstop Andy Julkowski had a big night at Hinckley July 17, driving in four runs on three hits.

Two victories are needed to advance to the Region 1C tourney coming to Hinckley the weekends of Aug. 4-5 and 11-12. Mora and Hinckley are the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the EML East.

Eastern Minny Baseball:  FINAL: West Division–  Rum River 10-7, 11-9 all; Princeton 10-7, 11-10; Sartell 9-8, 9-8; Nowthen 6-11, 6-14.  East Division–  Mora 15-2, 21-4; Hinckley 13-4, 17-9; Quamba 5-12, 6-16; Ogilvie 0-17, 0-17.

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