CLASS B & C SATURDAY ROUNDUP AT DELANO: St. Patrick players, fans embrace move to Class B

By Ryan Simonson

If you’re not an amateur baseball fan, you may have driven past St. Patrick’s Bonin Field a hundred times without knowing. Nestled at the bottom of a gentle, green hill below St. Patrick’s catholic church and cemetery, behind St. Patrick’s Tavern, the field is hidden from view as you travel down Hwy. 13 between Prior Lake and New Prague. Behind the iconic steeple and rows of headstones is the secret  home of one of Minnesota’s premier townball operations, the St. Patrick Irish. 

For most of its history, Bonin Field was more of a quaint, rustic attraction than a baseball cathedral. Its backstop was chicken wire stretched across a rough wooden frame, the dugouts low and small and all games were played during the day because the park was unlit. But on any given summer game day the hill was covered with loyal Irish fans in their lawn chairs and blankets, soaking up the sunshine and simple pleasures of small town baseball. And St. Patrick has consistently rewarded them with quality teams, earning 15 trips to the Class C state tournament in the 2000s, culminating with a heartbreaking loss to Fairmont in the 2020 championship game. 

Success has brought with it steady improvement to the quaint little park. The playing surface became a jewel of the region, the backstop was replaced with a concrete knee wall and high-visibility netting and then came lights. In a few short years, St. Patrick was transformed from a homespun roadside sandlot to a first-class ballpark. 

Along with Bonin, the Irish continued their steady improvement. Trips to the state tournament turned into deep tournament runs, with their dedicated fan base filling the stands each August to cheer them on. 

The perennial state tournament qualifier that had traditionally been stocked with local players was now signing elite collegiate talent from farther away. The combination of talent and tournament success carried points and heading into the 2022 campaign it became apparent that the Irish faced a difficult decision: release some talent and stay under the Class C qualifying threshold, or accept a promotion to Class B, with its beefier competition and new set of non-traditional opponents outside of regular league play.

The Irish stayed the course. They entered the 2022 tournament knowing they would be moving up and it would be their final shot at a C title. After an impressive run to the Elite 8 was cut short by a loss to Delano, St. Patrick went into the offseason preparing to transition to Class B. 

In their first season in Class B, the Irish showed they belonged. After cruising through a strong regular season, the boys from Bonin earned a No. 1 sectional seed over B powerhouses Miesville, Dundas and Northfield. Their first Class B tournament game pitted them against the St. Paul Capitals, whom they handily dismissed to advance to the Sweet 16. 

And their well-traveled, boisterous  fans who had spent another summer covering Bonin’s hill with their green and gold attire? They were right back with them in Waconia, this time wearing T-shirt that read, “Class B State 2023”

In their second-round game, St. Patrick faced 2022 Class A runner-up Baseball 365 and their lanky, energetic ace Noah Danner. Unfazed, the Irish put two runs on the board almost immediately, with back-to-back hits by Jack and Ryan Friedges, and a two-run double by Ben Taxdahl. 

Taxdahl cashed in again in the third, launching a two-run missile over the Delano ivy to give St. Patrick a 4-0 lead. 

Danner and Irish starter Ryan Friedges continued to duel through six innings, before a Jack Friedges home run to open the seventh gave St. Patrick a 5-0 lead and chased Danner from the game. 

Baseball 365 scored three runs on a pair of Irish errors in the eighth, but Alec Holcomb slammed the door in the final frame, St. Patrick holding on for a 5-3 victory. Conor O’Brien, Wyatt Rogers, Nate Behlen,and Jack Piram each had hits for 365.

The Irish and their fans will face Minnetonka on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 11 a.m. 

Minnetonka 8, Metro Knights 0

Despite having only four hits in the game, Minnetonka’s veteran club cruised past the Skyline League upstart Knights. Metro starter Jean Marcelino allowed only one hit and struck out eight Millers in his four innings of work, but also walked seven and hit two batters. 

Nick Thimsen and Steve Schmitz each drove in a pair of runs for Minnetonka, while Millers’ slugger Joe Shallenberger walked four times before launching a two-run homer late in the game.

Minnetonka advances to face St Patrick on Saturday, September 2 at 11 a.m. 

Luverne 4, Plato 3

In the most thrilling conclusion of the day, the Redbirds of Luverne battled back from an early 2-0 deficit and a strong start by Plato ace Drew Hedtke to win in walk-off fashion. 

A Joe Copas double in the second. put the Blue Jays in front 2-0, where the score remained until a Declan Beers seeing-eye single drove a run across for Luverne in the sixth. 

Windom draftee Collin Lovell took over for Redbirds starter Ben Serie in the seventh and was almost out of the inning when Plato veteran Matt Odegaard singled on a two-strike pitch to extend the Blue Jays lead to 3-1.

A Cade Wenninger double down the line and a Phil Paquette RBI single made it a 3-2 game going into the ninth inning, where Plato looked poised to score again after an Odegaard infield single loaded the bases. The Jays were unable to score, and the game went to the bottom of the ninth still 3-2.

Plato found itself in immediate trouble in the home half of the ninth. After a hit batsman, a pitching change and a couple of singles, the score was suddenly tied 3-3 with the bases loaded. A bouncing chopper back to a drawn-in third baseman looked to be the start of an inning-ending double-play, but the throw short-hopped Copas at the plate and Luverne’s Serie slid into home to seal a dramatic 4-3 win. 

Luverne advances to face Bluffton.

Fergus Falls 4, Chisago Lakes 1

In a battle of draftees, Fergus Falls starter Shane Trattles, on loan from the Sauk Centre Titans outdueled Chisago Lakes draftees Damon Rademacher (Princeton) and Phil Bray (Isanti) for a complete-game win. 

Alex Hensch led the Hurricanes with two hits and two RBIs, including a first-inning two-run homer. Peter Gaustad added two hits and Carter Thielke had a double for the ‘Canes.

Tyler Stilp led the Bulldogs with two hits and a run scored. Bray struck out five of the 11 batters he faced in 2 2/3 innings of work. Fergus Falls advances to face Jordan.

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