Bluedogs are 16C champs
The Brandon-Evansville Bluedogs' impressive stretch of play continued through two weekends in August when they secured a spot in the Class C State amateur baseball tournament by picking up four wins in Region 16C play.
The Bluedogs proved they can win with their backs up against the wall by taking three games in 24 hours to climb through the loser's bracket and capture the Resorters West title in late July.
That momentum carried over into August as Brandon-Evansville beat Midway 18-13 on Sunday to put the finishing touches on a Region 16C title. The Bluedogs beat Wolf Lake 12-2 in seven innings on August 9 to secure a spot at state. They got to that point with a 5-4, 10-inning win over Midway in the second round and a 7-3 win over Hawley to open the tournament.
Those wins set up a date with St. Cloud Orthopedic this Sunday in Gaylord for the opening round of the Minnesota State Tournament. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. The Bluedogs drafted pitcher Casey Kowalski from Fergus Falls after the tournament to help add to their depth at state.
Ryan Hendrickson capped off a great region tournament by hammering two home runs in a game that had 29 hits between the two teams.
Hendrickson was named the Region 16C MVP after hitting five home runs in four games to lead the Bluedogs' offense.
It was an offense that exploded for 16 hits on Sunday afternoon. Brandon-Evansville scored twice in the first and third innings before putting four up in the fourth and sixth. The Bluedogs added five more in the eighth and one in the ninth to create some more breathing room.
Osakis draftee Chad Zimmel took the offensive support and ran with it to pick up the win on the mound. He went the first six innings before getting knocked out in the seventh.
Mike Bruns relieved him and induced a fly-out to centerfield to get out of a jam. He ran into trouble in the next inning before his younger brother, Kyle Bruns, came on. Kyle got a big double play started by shortstop Chris Shea before getting a flyout to left field to end the inning. Bruns struggled with his control in the ninth a little but a lineout to third ended the game and sent his team to state as the region champions.
Wolf Lake 2
Things came easy for Brandon-Evansville on August 8. Both teams were entering their third game in two days, but the Bluedogs' pitching staff proved to have a little more left in the tank.
Kyle Bruns started on the hill and threw six solid innings to pick up the win. He allowed one run in the first inning before shutting down the Wolf Lake offense the rest of the way. Zimmel then came on in the seventh and shut the door on Wolf Lake to end the game early.
The pitching allowed the offense to build a big lead, but Hendrickson made it easy on them. He had a huge day at the plate with two home runs and six RBIs.
Midway 4 (10 innings)
The game of the tournament for Brandon-Evansville fans came in a back-and-forth affair against Midway in round two.
Both teams seemed to have an answer for every run in this one. Brandon-Evansville struck first when Lee Nelson got his team on the board in the top of the first with an RBI single. That is how things would go into the fifth when Midway's Zach Etter launched a 3-2 pitch over the center field wall for a two-run home run.
The Bluedogs wasted no time getting that run back. Nate Meissner answered with a home run of his own in the top of the sixth, a solo shot that tied the game at two.
Those two home runs started a back and forth of long balls between the two teams. Jeff Marjamaa gave the Snurbirds a one-run lead in the seventh with a solo shot. Hendrickson then answered back again with a solo home run in the top of the eighth to tie the game at three apiece.
That is how things would go to the bottom of the ninth when the Bluedogs' pitching staff would work its way out of a huge jam. The Snurbirds loaded the bases with nobody out in the frame. Zimmel was able to work his way out of it by inducing a failed squeeze play and an infield pop-out before getting the final out to strand the winning run on third.
Brandon-Evansville carried that momentum with them into the top of the 10th. Aaron Olson, an Ashby draft pick, started a threat with one out by legging out an infield single. Meissner then singled to right field to put runners on first and third.
Two batters later with runners now on second and third and two away, Brent Meissner delivered the hit of the tournament for his team when he took a two-strike pitch and sent it into left field for a two-RBI single.
Nate Meissner was asked to hold that two-run lead in the bottom of the 10th. The Snurbirds loaded the bases with no outs but a sharp ground ball to Nelson was turned into a 4-6-3 double play. A run scored on the play, but Meissner got Midway's Chris Baso to pop out to first baseman Harley Hazel to secure the win.
Travis Santjer kept the Bluedogs in the game by throwing the first 8 1/3 innings on the mound. Zimmel picked up the win with his work in the ninth and Meisser recorded the save.
Nate and Brent Meissner also led Brandon-Evansville at the plate. Nate went 2-for-5 with a home run, an RBI and two runs scored, while Brent added one hit, a walk and two RBIs.
Things came a little easier in the opening round victory over Hawley.
The Hawks did take a 3-0 lead but the Bluedogs' offense proved to be too much over the course of the game as they scored seven unanswered runs to secure the win.
Mike Bruns made sure that offense was plenty. He picked up the win on the mound in 7 2/3 innings before Zimmel threw the final 1 1/3 to close things out.