By Greg Hunt
An intense weekend of baseball ended with Isanti claiming a berth in the Class C State tournament after the team had its back against the wall in a final elimination game of the Region 1C tourney. The veteran cast of the Redbirds came through on Sunday to earn its trip to Glencoe.
Saturday night’s final winners’ bracket game turned into a marathon when Big Lake locked up a State berth with a 7-5 win over Isanti in 14 innings. The Redbirds owned an early 5-1 lead, but the White Caps chipped away, tying it at 5-5 in the ninth. The Caps still had the bases loaded in that inning, but Isanti turned a double play to keep the game knotted.
Wade Reichmann started for Isanti and went seven innings, allowing two earned runs while striking out four. Draftee Ryan Bruns pitched the next 2.3 innings, then Bud Heifort hit the mound for 4.3 innings (6 hits/4 K) and was tagged with the loss.
“It was just an incredible game. We both had chances, and both defenses came through with big plays,” said Redbird manager Steve Allen. “I was talking to the ump the next day, and he told me he had never been involved in a more intense game.”
Brian Schultz had a monster night at the plate, going 5-for-7 with an RBI. Eric Rysdam and Kyle Johnson both hit doubles for Isanti, with Johnson finishing with two RBI.
Schultz also came up with a gem of a hustle play in the top of the 13th while at shortstop. The Caps had a runner at second with no outs, and they attempted a bunt to force third-bagger Ty Schaff to charge. Schultz saw the base unattended, flew to cover and tagged out the advancing runner on a perfect throw from catcher Johnson.
Isanti 3, Forest Lake 2
The Big Lake game didn’t end until 11:30 p.m., and the Redbirds had to regroup and return to Hinckley for the final elimination game against Forest Lake early Sunday afternoon. This game was equally intense, said skipper Allen, with Isanti winning it in the bottom of the ninth.
Schaff opened the ninth against Brewer starter Mike Swenson by ripping a one-hopper over the third baseman’s head. Schultz bunted him to second, then Wyatt Soderquist blooped a single to shallow left which allowed Schaff to reach third. After a Brewer conference on the mound, Swenson remained to pitch to B.J. Samuelson who smoked an 0-1 pitch back up the box for the walk-off game-winning single.
Joe Ramberg pitched his second strong game of the playoffs by going the distance, scattering nine hits while striking out four and walking none.
“Joe threw awfully well for us again. He pitched the last three innings with a blister on his throwing hand and didn’t even tell me about it until after the game,” said Allen. “He was just really focussed out there.”
Schaff had two of Isanti’s seven hits off Swenson and also had a sac bunt. Soderquist had an RBI grounder to tie the game at 1-1 in the fifth inning, then Johnson singled home Packy Lind for a 2-1 Redbird lead in the sixth.
Big Lake 13, Isanti 7
After the dramatic win over the Brewers, the Redbirds immediately had to play a rematch with Big Lake to determine the region’s Nos. 1 or 2 seeds for State. Isanti was pretty gassed, and the White Caps won the region championship with a 13-7 victory. They also reached State last season.
Adam West started for Isanti and gave up two earned runs (five total) over 3.3 innings, striking out two. Dallas Nelson tossed the next 2.3 innings, getting touched for four hits and three walks. Schultz then gave up three earned runs and three hits over the next 2.3 innings, and Matt Duong mopped up in the eighth.
Duong went 4-for-5 to pace the offense. Samuelson collected a double amid his three hits, with two hits delivered by Schaff, Johnson and Heifort. Schaff and Eric Rysdam both had two RBI.
In their five Region 1C games, Samuelson and Schultz led the Redbirds with 10 hits.
State Opener: Aug. 20 at Glencoe
The Minnesota Class C State baseball tourney opens this weekend for the Round of 32. The first two rounds will be single elimination, with the format changing to double-elimination when the tourney gets down to eight teams on Labor Day weekend.
Isanti (28-7) opens at Glencoe Saturday, Aug. 20 (5 p.m.) against Lake Henry out of the Stearns County League, the Region 15C champs. The Lakers (19-6) defeated Spring Hill 5-2 to reach State for the ninth time including last season.
This will be the seventh time the Redbird franchise has reached State. The last trip was in 2008 where the ‘Birds finished a good run in 4th place.
The Isanti/Lake Henry winner will next play 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 back at Glencoe. Brownton and Hutchinson are also hosting Class C games for this tournament.