Rolette County falls in title game again at Section 5 Tournament
It was a quiet Rolette County dugout following the Section 5 Legion Championship game on July 25.
It was a different story across the diamond in the Velva dugout, however.
Post 39 defeated Rolette Co. 14-8 to claim its second straight section crown over the Muskrats and advance to the Class B state Legion tournament.
“It’s definitely disappointing,’ said Tory Danielson, Muskrat coach after the game. “We worked hard to get back to the championship, but they’re a good team and they showed it today. They are a team that will eat up your mistakes.”
Indeed, it was a tough end for fourth seeded RC which otherwise had a strong section tournament, forcing the defending champs to the brink of elimination.
A day earlier the Muskrats rallied from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to get past New Rockford in a loser-out game. Then, Zach Thompson, of Towner, had his best pitching performance of the season, holding Velva to just one run in a 2-1 Rolette win to force a second, and deciding section title game.
The Muskrats had high hopes this summer returning a veteran-laden team comprised of players from Rugby, Towner and Rolette. Despite a so-so regular season, the squad put its best baseball together in the postseason, Danielson said. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to claim the program’s first title since 2006.
Velva 14, RC 8
Rolette County got the start it wanted, sending nine batters to the plate in the top of the first inning and scoring four runs.
No. 2 Velva wasn’t rattled, however. Post 39 scored four runs of their own in the bottom of the first en route to a 14-8 slugfest in the section championship on July 25.
“I knew we would find a way to get back into the game, but I didn’t expect to get four runs in the first,’ said first-year Velva coach Tim Ranum.
The hit parade would continue for Velva. The squad plated three more runs in the bottom of the second inning and would score at least one run through the first five innings.
Rolette starting pitcher Josh Casavant struggled to find the strike zone and the Muskrats defense behind him also had a tough day.
“We were not sharp at all in the field,’ RC coach Tory Danielson said. “In a big game like this, you can’t make a lot of mistakes.”
The Muskrats had couple of misplays on ground balls and fly balls in and the most damaging fielding miscue came in the bottom of the third inning when two Velva runners scored on a past ball while attempting a squeeze play.
Post 39, meanwhile, was sharp in the field, turning two double plays to prevent big innings by the Muskrats. “We really stress working on the routine plays,’ Ranum said. “We try and go over a lot of game situations in practice to prepare us.”
Velva led 9-4 after three innings, but Rolette wouldn’t go away quietly. Rolette scored four runs in the fourth inning. It began with a leadoff home run by Jaden Pfeifer. Later in the inning, the Muskrats would string together four more hits by Nic Pfeifer, Pake Hagen, Zach Thompson and Wyatt Thompson to score three more runs.
It was the shot in the arm the squad desperately needed, but unfortunately Velva again had an answer.
“We needed to shut the door (in the bottom of the inning) and we didn’t,’ Danielson said.
Velva would regain its five-run lead by scoring four times in its half of the inning, taking advantage of Zach Podoll double, two walks and a hit batter. Casavant started the inning, but continued control problems forced Danielson to bring in Zach Thompson. The pitching change didn’t matter, however, as Ty Bruner provided the key hit, a bases clearing triple.
The Muskrats appeared to be putting together another scoring rally in the fifth inning when J. Pfeifer led off with a double and Nic Pfeifer singled with one out. However, a double play would get pitcher Jon Mack out of the jam.
Velva would add one more run in the fifth inning and RC would only get one more base runner over the final two innings. Post 39 went 4-1 in the tournament, scoring 8 or more runs in their four wins.
“I guess we like the high scoring games,’ joked Ranum afterward. “I like the runs, but I would prefer if we didn’t give so many.”
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