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Senior state baseball: Urbank proves itself among state's best

Kip Nelson (29) and Paul Downing of the Urbank Goldtimers celebrate near home plate after Downing scored in the third inning on Sunday at Knute Nelson Ballpark in Alexandria during the Minnesota Senior Men's Amateur Baseball Association's state tournament. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)1 / 5
Brad Zimmel throws during the first inning of Sunday's game against the St. Louis Park Cardinals. Zimmel got the win for the Goldtimers in seven shutout innings. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)2 / 5
Urbank second baseman Kevin Suchy reaches for a ball up the middle in the third inning before stepping on the bag and turning to throw a runner out at first for a double play. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)3 / 5
Urbank catcher Scott Korkowski talks with the homeplate umpire between innings during Sunday's game against St. Louis Park at Knute Nelson Ballpark in Alexandria. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)4 / 5
The Goldtimers' Scott Woida turns to throw as St. Louis Park's Derek Mann slides into second in an attempt to break up a double play on Sunday afternoon. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)5 / 5

In a tournament that for more than 35 years has been reserved for ballparks across the Twin Cities Area, this weekend was the Lakes Area’s time to shine.

That’s exactly what the Urbank Goldtimers did as the topped-seeded group of the four area teams that hosted the Minnesota Senior Men’s Amateur Baseball Association’s (MSMABA) first two rounds of the state tournament on Saturday and Sunday.

It’s the first time since the age 35-and-older league’s inception in 1980 that the state tournament has come to fields in Alexandria, Ashby, Kensington, Carlos and Urbank.

“It was just super,” longtime Urbank player/manager Joe Dorn said. “We had nothing but great comments from everybody. Even the guys from the cities, they said it was fun to get out of there for a change and come up here and see how the small towns up here do it.”

The Goldtimers (13-2) have performed well all summer and nothing changed through a 2-0 weekend at state. They won a 2-1 game over the Becker Buzzards on Saturday. Then on Sunday at Knute Nelson Ballpark in Alexandria, they beat the St. Louis Park Cardinals 5-0 to send them into week two of the tournament in the cities area with a perfect record.

“It’s fun,” 49-year-old pitcher Brad Zimmel said. “You like to think you’re young forever, but you’re not. It’s fun to go out and play a more relaxed atmosphere than what amateur ball is. We come out here and we have a good time. I don’t know if anyone on our team would say we don’t have too much fun. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. The game is supposed to be fun.”

Zimmel was on the mound on Sunday and cruised through seven, four-hit innings against the Cardinals.

“I haven’t pitched in about a month because I pulled my hamstring, but you throw a little bit, and I felt good,” he said.

Zimmel was effective from start to finish. He struck out five batters and allowed his defense to do the rest. They made some nice plays behind him, including a turn of a double play by second baseman Kevin Suchy in the third. Suchy, 36, stabbed a high chopper up the middle, stepped on the bag and turned to throw out the runner at first to secure a 5-0 lead.

“We’re young now considering what we’ve been in the past,” Zimmel said. “It’s nice to see guys making plays, a little range. You don’t have as much pressure on you thinking you have to strike everybody out. You can just put the ball in play, and they’re going to make the plays.”

It was a play that didn’t get made by the Cardinals in the top of the first that set the tone for the Goldtimers. Aaron Olson and Kip Nelson were on second and third with two outs after a single and a walk, respectively, earlier in the inning.

Fifth hitter Bruce Guenther was at the plate and sent a ball to the right-centerfield gap that got lost in the sun. St. Louis Parks’ right fielder tried to make a sliding catch, but it felt for a two-run double.

“That’s huge,” Dorn said. “It turns the pressure onto them, and we just like to rock and roll. As many years as I’ve played ball between this and town team, you think you’ve seen it all. You put the ball in play and strange things happen sometimes.”

The Goldtimers added three more in the third. Paul Downing started the inning by reaching on one of his two singles.

Jim Duberowski followed with an RBI single and Nelson and Guenther walked to load the bases. That brought Suchy to the plate with two outs as he delivered a two-run single that created a 5-0 lead.

The Goldtimers garnered the fifth seed in the 32-team tournament with an 11-2 regular season. The win on Saturday cemented their spot in the AA bracket, which is the top field of competitors among four classes (AA, A, B, C) that end up crowning state champions.

“We’ve had just a great year,” Dorn said. “The couple losses we have, we probably shouldn’t have lost. We gave up a few there, but I think out of the 23 years I’ve been playing, we’ve only been 1-3 down [at state] maybe twice. So we’ve always been .500 and not so much proven we can play with them, but we’ve always been competitive down at state. The last three, four years we’ve been with the big dogs [in AA] but being the 15th or 16th seed. Well, this year we were five and we’re just rocking. It’s fun.”

Fun is the name of the game for the Goldtimers, but many of the guys who play in this league still have the competitive fire in them that keeps bringing them to the park.

The Goldtimers have an opportunity in front of them after securing their spot in the AA semifinals with their two wins. They’ll play again on August 27 at a yet-to-be determined time and location in the Twin Cities area. Two wins down, two more to go to become state champs. It’s a feat this group will enjoy trying to get next weekend.

“I think we have a pretty good shot,” Zimmel said. “Pitching is huge. We have to be consistent pitching because I think our defense is fine and I think the better pitching we see, the better hitters we are. We don’t hit slow junk much, so throw us good pitches and we’ll probably hit it.”

GAME SUMMARY

URBANK            203 000 0 – 5 9 2

ST. LOUIS PARK 000 000 0 – 0 4 0

PITCHING – Urbank – Zimmel – W, 7IP, 4H, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 5SO; St. Louis Park – Brad Reifsteck – L, 7IP, 9H, 5R, 5ER, 4BB, 6SO

URBANK OFFENSE – Olson – 1-3, Sac, 1 run; Duberowski – 2-3, RBI, 1 run; Nelson – 0-1, 2 BB, 2 runs; Chris Barton – 0-3; Guenther – 1-2, 2B, BB, 2 RBI; Suchy – 1-3, 2 RBI; Scott Korkowski – 0-1, BB; Paul Klimek – 0-1; Zimmel – 1-2; Aloysius Woida – 0-1; Robin Woida – 0-1; Ken Bitzan Jr. – 1-2; Downing – 2-2, 1 run; Rod Helling – 0-1

ST. LOUIS PARK OFFENSE – Craig Thielen – 0-2, BB; Neil Kulevsky – 0-3; Ryan Englar – 1-2, BB; Aaron Mitchell – 1-3; Rob Ruhland – 0-3; Derek Mann – 0-3; Reifsteck – 0-3; Steve Swanson – 1-3; Gary Fritch – 1-3

AREA RESULTS

The Alexandria Classic Clippers, Carlos Whitecaps and K-Town Outlaws joined the Urbank Goldtimers as local teams helping to host the MSMABA state tournament this past weekend.

The Whitecaps beat the Prior Lake Pacers 10-0 behind a one-hitter from pitcher Jack Chapin. That placed them into the Class B bracket against Northfield. Once there, they beat the Millers 7-0 to advance to the Class B semifinals against the Apple Valley A’s on August 27.

The Outlaws lost a 7-2 game in Saturday’s opening round against the Southwest Outlaws to drop into the Class C bracket. They beat the Jordan Alers on Sunday and will match up against the Classic Clippers on August 27.

The Classic Clippers lost a 5-2 game to the Northfield Millers on Saturday but beat the Prior Lake Pacers 6-5 on Sunday. All teams in the tournament play four games, two this past weekend and two more in the Twin Cities area this Saturday and Sunday.

 
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.

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