August 23, 2022 at 2:57 p.m.
Lakers will face St. Martin Aug. 27
Ryan Janzen sent a solid line drive to right-center field and Joe Dolan sprinted home for a 4-3 Avon Lakers win over the Fairmont Martins in the first round of the Class C Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament Aug. 20 at Memorial Park in Dundas.
“He (Fairmont’s Spencer Chirpich) was throwing a good change-up all game,” Janzen said. “I was trying to hold off the off-speed and get a fastball. He got it a little bit up in the zone, and I tried to drive to the outfield and did the job.”
Janzen’s hit came in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 3-3 game. The chance to win the game came after Dolan walked and moved to second on Cody Stich’s sacrifice bunt. Dolan was headed home after Janzen hit the ball.
“It looked good off the bat,” Dolan said. “Harley (Adam Harlander) was at third base waving me home. Luckily, the throw was off. It was a great hit by Ryan.”
Avon executed the small ball win well, a bit different than its style early in the season.
“Playoffs are a little different; you have to do small things,” said Matt Meyer, co-manager. “You might have to play small ball at times, and we were able to do that.”
The walk-off win using small ball was set up, ironically, by a three-run home run from Caleb Curry in the third inning. Avon trailed 3-0 at that point, as early in the game, Lakers starter Mitch McIntyre gave up a first inning home run to Jon Traetow. In the second, he gave up RBI singles, which scored two more runs.
“They are a good hitting team,” McIntyre said. “They jumped on the first fastball all game.”
Following Curry’s homer, the pitchers and defenses settled in and took over. Avon did not have a runner reach second until the ninth inning. The Lakers’ defense stranded two Fairmont runners at third in the same stretch.
“That’s awesome to have as a pitcher, because you know you have help behind you and don’t have to strike everyone out,” McIntyre said.
Frustrated in its at-bats against Chirpich, Avon took heart in what it could do. It never felt it was out of the game. Matt Swanson, drafted from Upsala, pitched the final three innings, earning the win. He allowed only three batters to reach base as Avon played for the ninth-inning win.
“A real credit to Matt Swanson for picking us up and Ryan for having the big hit in the game,” Meyer said.
Janzen had two hits, as his third-inning single put him on base for Curry’s home run. Elian Mezquita added two more singles.
The win sets up a matchup between St. Martin and Avon at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 27, at Bell Field in Faribault. This marks the 12th time since 1984 that a Stearns County League/Region 15C team has faced a Victory League/Region 8C team in the state tournament. The VL has a 10-2 edge in these showdowns, but almost all of the games have been close. The SCL’s biggest win was Spring Hill’s 1-0 upset of Sobieski in Cold Spring in 2015.
The Avon-St. Martin contest could be close, and only the winner continues in the tournament. There are mixed feelings about the game.
“It will be fun,” said Carl Lieser, St. Martin manager. “They (Avon) are a good hitting team, a solid team. We will have our hands full. But, it’s kind of sad you have to play your neighbors.”
Avon played at the St. Martin Tournament this year but did not play St. Martin. The teams, about 17 miles apart, have rarely played each other and now will travel over two hours to do so. Many players on both teams competed together in Albany’s high school, Legion and youth programs. There have been a few players in previous years who played on both teams.
“We don’t play them, and they are right in our back door,” Meyer said. “It should be a loud, boisterous crowd and a fun game.”
Stearns County League
Farming’s Adam Nibaur, drafted by the Richmond Royals for the postseason, earned the save in Richmond’s 10-6 win over Hinckley at Jack Ruhr Field in Miesville. He pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and striking out four.
Elrosa, the other Region 15C/SCL team in the tournament, earned a 3-1 win over Montgomery Aug. 20 at Bell Field in Faribault.