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Region 14C baseball: Tigers make history

Eric Morken, Echo Press Former San Francisco Giants draftee Caleb Curry and the rest of his Miltona Tigers teammates punched their first ticket to a state tournament in 30 years by picking up two wins in the Region 14C Tournament this past weekend.

The Miltona Tigers will play in the Minnesota Baseball Association State Tournament for the first time in 30 years after earning a runner-up finish in the Region 14C Tournament this past weekend.

The Tigers had to earn their spot at state the hard way. After losing their opening game of the playoffs, Miltona was forced to win four straight elimination games.

The Tigers completed that stretch with a 13-0 win over the Staples Lumberbats and a 6-1 win over the Nimrod Gnats. That advanced them to the region championship, where they came up short in a 10-5 loss to the Bertha Blazers.

Miltona led that game 5-3 before things fell apart in the eighth. Bertha scored six runs in that frame without the benefit of a hit. Shawn Krueger started and went the first four innings before giving way to Caleb Curry, who worked three scoreless frames. Trey Thompson worked the ninth after catching 17 straight innings on the day.

Colin Erickson took the ball and pitched his team to state against Nimrod. The University of Minnesota-Duluth lefty had a little bit more than fellow college pitcher Alex Brockpahler. Both went seven innings as Erickson struck out nine and allowed just one run on five hits and three walks. He left with a 2-1 lead after seven.

"Despite the fact that both guys are relatively young, they proved they were ready for the big game," Miltona manager Paul Walsh said. "They threw extremely well."

Krueger relieved Erickson in the eighth and preserved that one-run lead. He allowed a leadoff single to Gunner Johnson before picking him off for the first out. Krueger then got the next five men he faced to close out the game.

"Shawn is just one of those guys that does everything we ask," Walsh said. "You need those type of players to get this far."

His offense made it a little easier on him with four insurance runs in the ninth. Tyler Erickson, Sam Steidl and Cody Curry all had run-scoring hits in the inning to help blow things open. Steidl finished the night 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs. Tyler Erickson also had two RBIs to lead the offense.

Miltona got production from up and down its lineup in a 13-0 win over Staples the night before. Ryan Emter and T. Erickson each had three hits at the top of the lineup to set the tone. Erickson finished with three RBIs and three runs scored. Steidl, Cody Curry, Jake Leuschke, Jake Munsch and Kevin Engebretson each added two hits, while Caleb Curry and Ross Thompson added one apiece.

The Tigers used a six-run third and a five-run fourth to make life easy on starter Chris Koep. The lefty was on his game again, tossing all seven innings and allowing just four hits in the shutout. He struck out seven and walked three.

The Tigers added to their pitching staff after the region tournament when they drafted Ben Bruggeman from the Carlos Cougars. They previously drafted another pitcher in Mike Lorine of Urbank-Parkers Prairie. Both players will add to an already strong pitching staff during the state tournament.

The two wins that secured the Tigers' spot at state were a unique experience for third-base coach Mike Steidl. He was on the last Miltona team to earn a trip to state 30 years ago.

"I played with some great guys who were very good ball players," Steidl said. "I am still in contact with most of those guys today. This is a similar group, and I would have enjoyed playing with them, as well."

Miltona will open up the tournament against perennial power Belle Plaine this Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. in Glencoe. The first two rounds of the tournament are single elimination before the format switches to double elimination in the quarterfinals. The Tigers would play their second game on August 27 if they advance past Belle Plaine.

GAME STATISTICS

MILTONA 001 000 104 - 6 7 1

NIMROD 000 000 100 - 1 6 4

MILTONA PITCHING - Colin Erickson - W, 7IP, 5H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 9SO; Shawn Krueger - 2IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 0SO

MILTONA HITTING - Ryan Emter - 1-3, 2 BB, 1 run; Tyler Erickson - 1-4, 2 RBI; Caleb Curry - 0-4, 2 runs; Sam Steidl - 2-4, BB, 1 run, 2 RBI; Cody Curry - 1-3, 2B, BB, RBI; Jacob Munsch - 0-3, 2 BB; Jake Leuschke - 0-2; Shawn Krueger - 0-3; Kevin Engebretson - 1-4, 1 run; Trey Thompson - 1-3; Ryan Silbernick - 1 run

STAPLES 000 000 0 - 0 3 4

MILTONA 006 520 X - 13 15 1

MILTONA PITCHING - Chris Koep - W, 7IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 3BB, 7SO

MILTONA HITTING - Emter - 3-4, 3B, BB, 2 runs, RBI; T. Erickson - 3-5, 3 runs, 3 RBI; Ca. Curry - 1-3, 1 run, RBI; Ryan Silbernick - 0-1; Steidl - 2-4, 2B, BB, 1 run, 2 RBI; Co. Curry - 2-3, BB, 2 runs, 2 RBI; Leuschke - 2-3, BB, 1 run, 2 RBI; Munsch - 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Engebretson - 2-3, 2 runs, BB; Ross Thompson - 1-3, 1 run

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229
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