The Class B and Class C state amateur baseball tournaments always end on Labor Day weekend. This year’s competition was perfectly located with Jordan and Belle Plaine as the co-hosts.
Judd Zulgad and I did our Saturday morning radio bit from Jordan’s Mini Met on Aug. 16, the first of three weekends for this Minnesota tradition of deciding champions for town-team ball.
We took the trip again this Sunday morning, simply to watch some ball, hit the Mini Met’s concession stand for a pork burger, and in Judd’s case, to have a couple of beers.
The day that started with eight teams remaining in Class C and four in Class B. There were two quarterfinals and two semis in C scheduled at Jordan, and two C quarterfinals and the B semifinals at Belle Plaine.
The tournament had stayed on schedule, even though some dodging of rain had been required over the three weekends. A Class C first-rounder between Kimball and Plato wound up being played in three ballparks after the downpours of Aug. 17 … started in Jordan, moved to Belle Plaine, and was concluded when Arlington volunteered its non-soaked field late on that Sunday.
On this last Sunday, the first C quarterfinal in Jordan was the New Ulm Brewers and the Winsted Wildcats. The 48-team C tournament is now set up so that teams with a weekend bye only play once in the first two weekends, but then it takes four games over the three-day Labor Day weekend to win a title.
That’s when teams find out if they have enough pitching. Winsted ran short and was pounded by New Ulm 13-3 in a game stopped by a 10-run rule that can be invoked after seven innings.
There were some husky fellows swinging the bats with authority for the Brewers, but there was also young Judd Davis flashing impressive glove work at shortstop. He can run, too, and is headed to St. Cloud State.
There was considerable nervousness with the promoters of the Jordan half of this tournament. Another group of Brewers, Jordan’s, were playing Nisswa with the morning startat Belle Plaine. The winner would be playing New UIm at 5 p.m. in Jordan in the first C semifinal.
There was more than civic pride at stake here. The towns that bid to co-host these tournaments are on the hook for a fair amount of dollars. Geography has much to do with attendance … and there’s no greater geographical advantage than having the hometown team still alive in its ballpark on Labor Day weekend.
The P.A. announcer kept informing the New Ulm-Winsted crowd that Jordan and Nisswa were locked in a 2-2 game. Finally, there was good news for the locals: the Brewers scored four in the top of the ninth.
A few minutes later, it was official: Jordan had won 6-2, and would be playing New Ulm in a battle of Brewers late in the afternoon.
The second quarterfinal at the Mini Met matched the Faribault Lakers and the Green Isle Irish.
Chris Reuvers, another radio colleague, arrived in a nervous state, since Faribault is his hometown, he formerly played for Lakers and might even have shared a beverage with numerous current Lakers.
Joe Driscoll, the town-ball legend, also showed up after having watching the Jordan-Nisswa contest. “The Brewers (meaning Jordan’s) got a few breaks,’’ he said. “Nisswa hammered some balls that got knocked down in the wind. And then they butchered a couple of fly balls to set up the four-run ninth.’’
I had made a trip to Green Isle last summer, to write a column on the passing of Whiey Herd and Pumper Sauter, two legendary Irish baseball men.
A few minutes before the game, we stopped for a quick howdy with Joe Krieger, THE Green Isle baseball man, who was serving as the third-base coach for this Irish tournament run.
We settled into a small bleacher down the right-field line and I took in the wisdom of Driscoll, a man who played a few thousand ballgames and had encountered everything baseball has to offer.
The wind was blowing out, as a warning of the storms that were gathering for later in the day. Green Isle smashed three home runs in a five-run third: one to left, one to center, one to right.
It was 5-0 that quick, and I said, “It looks like we have another blowout.’’
Driscoll said: “It’s the third. There’s a lot of baseball to be played.’’
The Irish added two more runs in the fourth. I looked at Driscoll and he said: “Five more innings. There’s a lot of baseball to be played.’’
Faribault was blanked again in the top of the fifth, then handed Green Isle an unearned run to make it 8-0 after five innings.
“What do you think, Judd?’’ I said. “Let’s get another pork burger and hit the road.’’
Reuvers, depressed, said: “I have to stick around. These are my guys.’’
Driscoll observed as Judd and I got ready to depart and said: “This one’s not over yet. There’s a lot of baseball to be played.’’
Wise Old Joe.
This is what happened, as reported on southernminn.com, the Faribault Daily News website: http://www.southernminn.com/faribault_daily_news/sports/article_d8e238e7-07b0-5830-a208-56938e5592eb.html
Faribault 9, Green Isle 8.
In Belle Plaine, Sobieski advanced with a 4-1 win over Fergus Falls. In the first C semifinal, New Ulm rallied with four in the ninth to beat Jordan 5-3 in the battle of the Brewers. The deluge hit in the third inning of the Faribault-Sobieski, pushing the conclusion of the second semifinal to this morning.
In Class B, St. Cloud Beaudreau’s advanced to today’s final, and defending champion Cold Spring and Moorhead were suspended, with the conclusion this afternoon.
The Class B (Belle Plaine) and Class C (Jordan) title games are today. If you leave now, you can get there. If doing so, remember the wisdom of Driscoll, and don't leave in the middle of any game.