September 6, 2022 at 4:57 p.m.
Lakers lose in heartbreaking fashion at state
The 2022 Avon Lakers amateur baseball season ended during the round of 16 at the Class C Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament Sept. 3 when Ryan Friedges hit a two-run walk-off home run to send the St. Patrick Irish to a 5-4 victory at Memorial Park in Dundas.
“It (baseball) is the greatest game but has a way of humbling you,” said Matt Meyer, co-manager. “They (St. Patrick) really are a great ball team. We had them on the ropes.”
St. Patrick came into the game with the reputation of a good offense and it finished with eight hits. Friedges, who had walked and scored in the fifth, earned Player of the Game game honors. Meyer was in line for that before the home run. Playing third, he had two putouts and started a double play. His 5-for-5 day at the plate was one reason why the Lakers held a 4-3 lead going into the ninth inning.
“Today was not a bad day at the plate,” he said. “I wish it had turned out different for us. It felt good swinging.”
Meyer’s second-inning single drove in Ryan Janzen to tie the game 1-1 in the third. That hit set up a go-ahead run for the Lakers, as Caleb Curry, who reached on a fielder’s choice, scored on Riley Voit’s double.
The Lakers went up 4-1 in the fifth as Meyer, Curry, Reese Gregory and Elian Mezquita all singled. Mezquita’s hit drove in two runs.
Batters kept finding ways to get on. St. Patrick had eight hits, and Avon finished with 13 hits. Gregory and Voit each had two hits and Janzen and Carter Philippi singled.
The teams supplemented its offenses with solid defense. St. Patrick turned three double plays, Avon center fielder Philippi made a diving catch with runners in scoring position, Avon shortstop Curry and catcher Cole Wellmann cut down a runner at the plate in the fourth, and Lakers pitcher Matt Swanson, drafted from Upsala, teamed up with first baseman Gregory and Curry in picking off a runner.
“Everybody kind of picked them (St. Patrick) to win it,” Meyer said. “We showed we could compete with the best.”
Avon played with the best, even while missing two regular starters. Outfielder Joe Dolan had a prior commitment and catcher Carter Holthaus missed because of a work-related injury.
Pitchers Mitch McIntyre, 4 1/3 innings; Swanson, 2 2/3 innings; and Mezquita, who pitched the rest of the game, stranded 10 Irish runners.
St. Patrick sent only two batters to the plate in the ninth inning. Leadoff batter Jack Friedges doubled and Ryan Friedges followed with his home run. It was Avon’s third contest at the state tournament decided in the final inning.
“We had a nice run going back to regionals and the state tournament,” Meyer said. “It was a great year. We gelled as a team.”
The Lakers earned the tournament’s Sportsmanship Award.
Overall, the year was a good one for Avon’s amateur baseball squad. Besides the state trip and trophy, the team introduced another lighted field to central Minnesota, co-hosted a regionals, provided its fans with memorable games and finished in the last weekend at state.
The Lakers were one of three Victory League or Region 8C teams to play in the final weekend of the state tournament. Buckman and Nisswa, both Victory League and Region 8C teams, played for the state championship, with Nisswa posting a 12-3 win.