The Osakis Legion baseball team went into the District 7 playoffs shorthanded and as one of three teams in the Final Four that were ranked in the top four of the Division II polls.
The injuries and opposition didn’t matter for a group of players who have gotten so used to winning together over the years. Osakis made sure it would have at least one more weekend together as they secured their spot at state with a 7-6 win over New London-Spicer on Saturday in Montevideo.
It came in a bit of an uncharacteristic game for this team. Osakis committed five errors but overcame that with one swing of the bat from Ky Zimmel. He came up in a tie game in the bottom of the seventh after Jordan Frederick had reached with a hit and stole a base.
Zimmel didn’t waste the opportunity to end it as he delivered a double down the right field line to send his team to state as walk-off winners. It was a fitting ending to the tournament for Frederick and Zimmel, two guys who played a huge part in Osakis’ success through the playoffs.
“It takes a team to win, obviously, but I think the two guys that won our games for us were Ky and Jordan, both offensively and pitching,” head coach Shad Schmidt said. “With their pitching; but also Ky came up with two big runs the other night [in a 4-2 win over Madison] when it was tight. Those two kids really carried the team throughout the playoffs.”
Frederick and Zimmel were both members of the all-tournament team. They joined teammates Drew Fearing and Jarrett Weispfennig with that honor as Weispfennig added two hits and a run scored in the title game.
Frederick got the win on Saturday by throwing the final inning after Zimmel started and went 3 1/3 innings. Zimmel struck out six and allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits and a walk. He struck out 29 in three starts during the playoffs.
Things didn’t come easy throughout the tournament with so many good teams in the field. Osakis beat New London-Spicer twice, including a 3-0 win led by Frederick’s one-hitter on Thursday. That came after a 4-2 win over third-ranked Madison last Tuesday in the opening game of the final four. BOLD, Division II’s top ranked team in the state, was also in the final four but was beat out before the title game.
“I think just the fact that the guys were resilient,” Schmidt said when asked what impressed him the most about his team’s run through such a good field. “None of the games were easy. They never let themselves get out of their game even when the other team put pressure on us. I think these kids believed that they were going to win. They’ve kind of felt that all year. Their goal was to get to state, but not only get to state but we’re going to try to win it.”
Not even injuries throughout the summer could derail those plans. Osakis lost leadoff hitter Lane Berberich to a shoulder injury for the rest of the summer and played almost all season without Doug Zimmel. The group brushed that aside and found ways to win all season, going 17-1 to this point with the only loss coming against a state-bound Alexandria team.
“They expect a lot from themselves,” Schmidt said. “They want to be in those situations to have those opportunities so they just go out there and reach for those goals and work hard to achieve them. They’re not afraid to say that we’re trying to win state. Everyone wants to get to state and win state but how many teams truly set their minds that we are going to go and do this and truly believe it? You have to believe it to have success.”
Osakis also got a bit of a mental boost going into the championship game on Saturday. Doug Zimmel didn’t play, but he was back in uniform after being cleared by a doctor after missing most of the summer with a broken hand. Zimmel still has to build up strength in his wrist and hand area, but having him as an option is just another added bonus for this team.
“Knowing that Doug’s back, you have the boost in confidence, especially with losing Lane,” Schmidt said. “When you lose your leadoff hitter and another pitcher it can be hard, but knowing Doug is coming back, I think that will give these guys a little more confidence.”
It’s an Osakis team that doesn’t lack for confidence in the first place. These players believed they were the best of a talented field at the district tournament and then went out and proved that.
Nothing will change as the team heads to Luverne this weekend for state. Osakis opens up on Friday at noon against the District 6 champion. Win or lose, they will play again on Saturday. The championship game is Sunday at 2 p.m. That’s exactly where this team believes it can be by the end of the weekend.
“That’s been our goal from when we talked way back in the winter and we talked to Doug and Ky,” Schmidt said of winning state and going to Nationals. “I said if I’m going to coach, that’s our goal and we’re going to be committed to that, and I expect you guys to do everything you can to be a part of it. Otherwise I’m not going to dedicate my time to coaching this team if everyone isn’t dedicated to that goal.”
Championship Game Osakis 7, New LondonSpicer 6 OSAKIS PITCHING – K. Zimmel – 3 1/3IP, 6H, 3R, 2ER, BB, 6SO; Fearing – 2 2/3IP, 1H, 2R, 1ER, 1BB, 1SO; Frederick – W, 1IP, 1H, 1R, 0ER, 0BB, 1SO
OSAKIS OFFENSE – Michael Herringshaw – 1B, BB, 1 run; Fearing – BB, 1 run; Frederick – 2 1B, 2 runs; K. Zimmel – 2B, RBI, 1 run; Cody DeWenter – 1B, BB, 1 run, RBI; Weispfennig – 2 1B, 1 run; Brady Berberich – Sac; Hunter Scherr – 1B, 2 RBI
Osakis 3, New London-Spicer 0
OSAKIS PITCHING – Frederick – W, 7IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 1BB, 7SO
OSAKIS OFFENSE – Herringshaw – 1B; Fearing – 2 1B, 2 runs; Frederick – BB, 1 run; K. Zimmel – 1B, RBI; DeWenter – 2B; Weispfennig – 1B; B. Berberich – Sac; Scherr – 2 BB
Osakis 4, Madison 2
OSAKIS PITCHING – K. Zimmel – W, 6IP, 4H, 2R, 2ER, 3BB, 11SO; Frederick – S, 1IP, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 2SO
OSAKIS OFFENSE – Herringshaw – 1B, 1 run, RBI; Fearing – 1B, 2 3B, 2 runs; Frederick – 2B, RBI; K. Zimmel – 1B, 2 RBI; Brandon Giesler – 1B; Weispfennig – 1B, BB; B. Berberich – BB, 1 run; Scherr – BB