After getting walloped by North Branch 12-2 in the first round of the double-elimination North End District 10 Legion Playoff Monday, July 16, Milaca’s chances of qualifying for the District 10 Tournament didn’t look good.
The team faced a long and hot journey if it wanted to claim one of two North End berths to the district tourney.
“I told the guys to keep their heads up, we played everyone in the league close during the regular season,” said Milaca Coach Bart Naumann. “The team knew it had a shot at advancing to districts despite the opening loss to North Branch.
“We knew we had to play much better and we did.”
Milaca bounced back from its first-round loss and stopped St. Francis 10-6 Wednesday, July 18, at Howard Solheim Veterans Field in Princeton. St. Francis had topped Milaca 5-4 Friday, July 13 in the final game of the regular season.
Milaca then trimmed Cambridge 11-4 Thursday, July 19. Cambridge had defeated Milaca twice by one run during the regular season.
A late-inning rally carried Milaca past North Branch 11-5 later Thursday night, giving Milaca its first District 10 berth since 2009.
Princeton went 2-0 in the North End tournament and gained the No. 1 seed to the district meet.
Milaca, the No. 2 seed, faces Centennial in its opening game today (Thursday) at noon at Veterans Field in Minnetonka.
If it wins its opener, Milaca will play Friday at 3 p.m. at Haddox Field in Bloomington. If it loses its first game Milaca will play Friday at 3 p.m. at Veterans Field in Minnetonka.
The double-elimination tournament continues Saturday and Sunday at Haddox Field and Kelly Field in Bloomington.
Milaca carries a 6-9 record into the district meet. As was the case in the North End Playoff, games in the District 10 Tournament are nine innings, two innings longer than regular-season games were.
“Our goal is to continue to play good baseball,” said Naumann. “The team feels good and is confident.”
Milaca 10, St. Francis 6
Milaca, behind a five-run second inning, built a 10-2 lead before St. Francis rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Brandon Kiel pitched eight innings and allowed two runs and eight hits while not allowing a walk. He struck out five. He was relieved in the ninth by Matt VanSomeren, who allowed three runs on two hits and walked four. Brian Kiel then notched the final two outs, allowing one hit and no walks.
Brandon Kiel went 4-for-6, with a triple, double and two singles to lead a 15-hit offense. Travis Bertram went 4-5, with a double and three singles while Mike Garber had two singles and Mike McLouth and Hunter Foss each had a double.
“We hit and hit some more in this one,” said Naumann. “Brandon pitched very well and Travis made a diving over-the-shoulder catch that allowed us to double-up a baserunner and end the game.”
Milaca 11, Cambridge 4
Brian Kiel pitched a nine inning complete game, allowing four runs and 10 hits. He struck out four and didn’t issue a walk.
Brandon Kiel went 3-4 with two triples and a double to pace an 11-hit offense while Bob Peterson had a solo home run and a single and Justin Fransen had a single and a double.
Milaca led 5-4 after scoring single runs in the first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. It pulled away with two runs in the seventh, three in the eighth and one in the ninth.
“We continued our hot hitting and we played good defense, with just one error,” said Naumann. “Brian was very steady on the mound.”
North Branch 5
Trailing 5-4, Milaca avenged its opening loss in the playoff by scoring three runs in the fifth inning, four in the seventh and three more in the eighth.
VanSomeren started and allowed five runs and five hits over five innings. Brandon Kiel closed the door and blanked North Branch on one hit over four innings. He struck out seven and didn’t allow a walk.
Milaca pounded 12 hits as Bertram rapped a pair of double, Brandon Kiel had three singles, Brian Kiel had a double and a single and Foss had a pair of singles.
“It was an exciting win, especially the way the team rallied back,” said Naumann. “The guys were pretty happy.”