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Classic Clippers aim for a state tournament bid

Alexandria's Mike Forester released a pitch against the Crosstown Traffic at Knute Nelson ballpark this past Saturday. (Echo Press photo by Blaze Fugina)

Playing with a smaller roster this season, the Alexandria Classic Clippers are trying to earn their way back into the AA state tournament of the North Star Classic Baseball League.

The Classic Clippers, an ages 35 and older baseball team, played in the AA state tournament last year as the fifth seed. The team would like to earn their way back to the AA tournament, which is designated for the top teams in the standings at the end of the regular season.

The Classic Clippers are 3-4 this year after a weekend home win against Apple Valley on July 28 and a loss against Crosstown on July 27. The team's regular season ends with four games next weekend on the road. The Classic Clippers will play a doubleheader against Becker on August 3, and two games on August 4 against Monticello and Minnetonka.

"We've got tough teams next weekend," Classic Clippers player-coach Mike Weber said. "We need them all. We needed to win [last Sunday] and we need to win all four of them next weekend to get into the upper bracket of the state tournament."

Last year, the Classic Clippers lost both games they played in the double-elimination playoffs against Watertown and Woodbury. The team hopes that four wins will get them another chance to advance further into the AA tournament.

"We never see ourselves as a lower class team," Weber said. "We always like to think we're at the top."

A small roster is not making things easy for the Classic Clippers, as the league often requires trips to away games in the Twin Cities. The closest team in the league to Alexandria is Cold Spring and most of the teams are in the Twin Cities.

"We have kind of a short roster this year with only 12 guys," Classic Clippers player-coach Bryan Boutain said. "We don't have a lot of flexibility to do a lot because we go on the road."

Last year the roster had 14 players, but Scott Allen has been busy as an owner of the Blue Anchors and Lee Backhaus has taken time off with his son's Legion schedule.

"We certainly would expect those two guys back next year," Boutain said. "We've still got time to pick up more players before the state tournament."

The Classic Clippers have experienced steady hitting at times this year, and the team's pitching staff is deep. Mike Forester and Doug Breikruetz have been playing as the team's top two starting pitchers.

"Everybody hits pretty good," Boutain said. "As far as pitching goes, Mike Forester is our workhorse."

The Classic Clippers roster has been consistent over the recent years. The team has had three players on the team every year since it began in 1994 - Backhaus, Roger Johnson and Weber.

"Our roster is pretty solid from year-to-year," Weber said.

The North Star Classic Baseball League state tournament begins on August 9 in Burnsville and Cold Spring.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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