Despite a 3-2 play-in win over Taconite on July 22, Milaca was unable to use the momentum from that win to advance to Legion State Tournament.
Milaca dropped two close games in the Section 8 Tournament’s first day to be eliminated from competition, and end the season. In game one the Post 178 players fell 5-1 to top-ranked International Falls. In game two Milaca fell 7-6 to Esko to end their season.
July 22: Milaca 3, Taconite 2
In what amounted to a play-in game, Milaca topped Taconite 3-2 on Tuesday, July 22 to continue on in the District 8 playoffs.
Taconite held the lead after a two-run second inning, but then strong pitching and two runs in the bottom of the seventh led Milaca to a win.
Matt VanSomeren pitched a gem, going the distance and striking out 15 Taconite batters.
“Matt hit a little bump in the second inning with three hits, but then was lights out the rest of the way,” said Milaca head coach Bart Naumann.
Mason Hoskins had a single, a double and a run batted in during the victory. Nathan Hass added a pair of singles and Justin Fransen had an RBI.
“We had trouble leaving guys stranded, five with one out or less, but everyone remained confident,” Naumann said. “Matt was pitching extremely well, and everyone really rallied around that.”
July 25 (Game one): International Falls 5, Milaca 1
Milaca hoped to use the momentum from the first win up north would further themselves in the section tournament, but it was not so. In Friday’s first game in Ely, Milaca fell 5-1 to International Falls. They were unable to muster enough runs to support a good Brian Kiel start.
Kiel had one major slip up by allowing three runs in the fifth, which helped lead to Post 178’s demise. He did strike out six in the losing effort, and allowed four earned runs. Ian Carpenter pitched two flawless innings of relief.
Kiel also hit a triple at the plate. Hass, Raliegh Millar, Carpenter and Matthew Fransen each had singles in the loss.
“It was not a bad game, we just couldn’t string hits together,” Naumann said. “The fifth was the only tough inning when they put up three runs on four hits.”
July 25 (Game two): Esko 7, Milaca 6
The loss in game one last Friday gave Milaca one option: win or go home.
Unfortunately for Post 178 it was the latter as they lost in a heartbreaker 7-6 to Esko.
Both teams scored a pair of runs early, but Esko blew the game open in the fifth inning by putting five runs on the board to take a 7-2 lead.
Milaca made a strong rally in the bottom of the sixth by scoring four runs and cutting the lead to one, but that was all the closer they would get.
“We left six guys in scoring position, but we were able to hit our way back,” Naumann said.
VanSomeren started on the mound and went five innings and gave up seven runs on six hits and struck out six. Justin Fransen pitched the final two innings of relief and held Esko scoreless.
Hass had a pair of hits, and Kiel hit his second triple of the tournament. Carpenter was the big leader at the dish though for Milaca as he went 2-for-4 with a single and a double.
Young players like Wyatt Foss (single) and Matthew Fransen (single) got some strong experience in the loss.
“It was a great experience for the younger guys, and an extended season for our veterans that won’t return next year,” Naumann said. Those two non-returners are Carpenter and Justin Fransen.
Milaca’s final record was 9-8.