August 16, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
It was difficult for anyone in the Sauk Centre Titans dugout not to feel dejected after their Region 16C Tournament lower-bracket game against the Carlos Cougars Aug. 12 in Pelican Rapids.
Sauk Centre’s lineup clawed out contact against Carlos starter Shay Endres and received a dominant showing from the ever-reliable Shane Trattles on the mound. Sadly, the Titans simply could not find important runs, falling 1-0 to their Resorters League rival and ending their season one win short of the Class C Minnesota Amateur Baseball Tournament.
“It’s frustrating,” said Andrew Rousslange, manager. “Shane pitched a helluva game for us, and it’s disappointing that we didn’t get it done for him. It’s definitely a disappointment.”
Sauk Centre struck out only seven times but failed to build opportunities at the plate. Derek Holm reached on an error to lead off the game and Alex Kowski made it to second base after a single and passed ball in the second inning, but only four batters reached thereafter, struggling to hit the ball to open space.
“We felt like we were doing a good job of making contact, but we were hitting everything right at them,” Rousslange said. “Dylan (Haskamp) had two hard-hit balls that could have been home runs if the wind wasn’t blowing in. Things just weren’t going our way.”
While the Titans’ offense could not garner momentum, Trattles provided an essential boost on the bump even after pitching three innings the day before. The former collegiate thrower possessed impeccable command on both his fastball and off-speed pitches, throwing 77 of his 107 pitches for strikes in completing a full eight innings. Trattles, nicknamed “Bulldog” by his teammates for his fight and tenacity in stressful situations, allowed only one run on a sacrifice fly and struck out seven.
“He’s a different person in the playoffs,” Rousslange said. “He flips that switch and gets more dominant and it’s fun to watch. It’s definitely fun to watch him work around batters and mix it up and strike people out.”
Carlos’ lone run ended up being enough, with Endres facing only 32 batters in a complete game shutout. The win vaulted the Cougars to the state tournament and sent Sauk Centre home with a tough defeat to forget about.
“It’s a successful season; we had fun and I love hanging with the guys,” Rousslange said. “It’s always a good time. It’s just very frustrating that we were right there again and let it slip away.”
The Titans turn their attention toward the future, hoping their blend of veteran contributors are joined by fresh new faces and more depth as the club looks to return to state once more in 2024.
“We talked over the summer about discovering new guys and giving them a chance,” Rousslange said. “Hopefully, we can get the numbers up and keep competing as the years goes on.”
Sauk Centre 10, Urbank 6
In 2022, the Urbank Bombers eliminated the Titans in the Region 16C playoffs on their way to a highly-coveted state tournament appearance.
One year later, it was Sauk Centre showing Urbank the door in an elimination game, with the Titans tallying 13 hits in a big-time 10-6 victory over the Bombers Aug. 11 in Pelican Rapids.
“Those do-or-die games, there’s a lot more stress, you press a lot more, but that’s the reason we play,” Rousslange said.
Urbank used big flies to build an early advantage. After an RBI single in the first inning, the Bombers smacked a pair of solo home runs in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead.
“I probably was still a nervous wreck in the outfield watching the balls fly over the fence, but our guys stayed in it and battled back,” Rousslange said. “Our heads never dropped that game.”
Dylan Haskamp, who did not start as planned due to inflammation in his throwing arm, still made a gigantic impact on the game, poking a two-run single to right in the third to cut into the Urbank lead.
“That gave us a spark that ignited the fire, and the battle started at that point,” Rousslange said.
Sauk Centre changed the outcome of the game with a five-run fifth, in which five straight at-bats ended with a run coming across home plate. Brian Beuning, Dylan Haskamp, Jake Zollman and Jake Haskamp hit four consecutive singles to lead the way.
The Titans scored three more insurance runs in the seventh, capped off by a two-run double from Holm. The offensive outpouring supported a balanced effort from Sauk Centre’s four-headed pitching attack of Matthew Warring, Trattles, Beuning and Shawn Hayungs, all of whom were willing to pitch after Dylan Haskamp’s injury outlook created last-minute adjustments.
“With the little panic when Dylan said he couldn’t go, it was trying to game-plan what we were going to do moving forward,” Rousslange said. “Everyone stepped up and said they were ready to throw.”