CLASS C at DASSEL: New-look Plato continues old winning ways

By Ryno Simonson

The Plato Blue Jays have worn their storied history on their sleeve. Quite literally. Take a trip down highway 212 and pay a visit to the newly illuminated Blue Jay Stadium when the Jays don their home white uniforms, and a glance at their left sleeves will remind you that this club took home state titles in 1996, 2007, 2015, and 2018 — without mentioning numerous other deep tournament runs. Both within their home Crow River Valley League, and in the MBA State Tournament, the name Plato has been synonymous with success for the better part of two decades. 

Just eight days ago the Blue Jays found themselves in an unenviable position. After a first-round regional upset to No. 7 seed Carver, and a narrow escape from No. 6 seeded Brownton, Plato was faced with an unexpected loser’s bracket matchup with top-seeded and highly ranked Watertown in a win-or-go-home showdown. In front of more than 600 Crow River fans in Hamburg, Blue Jays golden-mained ace Drew Hedtke outlasted Watertown’s power arms in Zach Iten and Patrick Tschida to advance to the state tournament with a 1-0 nail-biter victory. 

With their state ticket punched, the Jays added both Iten and Tschida (along with Glencoe’s Zach Voelz) as draftees to bolster their already formidable 1-2 punch of Hedtke and Reese Schwirtz. Add the reliable arms of Will Hoernemann and Adam Prehn to the mix and you have a team with all the pitching depth a manager could ask for to make a run into Labor Day Weekend. 

Plato faced their first challenge of the tournament in the St. Stephen Steves, the third seed out of region 8C, who advanced to state by battling back from an early regional loss, then handing the talented Avon Lakers a 10-0 defeat in the seeding game. 

With Hedtke again on the hill, facing St. Stephen’s Jack Greenlun, the scoreless early frames bore a strong resemblance to the pitcher’s duel in Hamburg. The Jays eventually broke through for three gifted runs in the third inning after multiple hit batsmen, an erratic pitch, and a sacrifice fly. 

Despite threatening throughout the game and out-hitting Plato 7-4 in the game, the Steves were only able to push a single run across the plate, falling 5-1, with Hoernemann slamming the door for the Jays. 

“We’ve had a lot of turnover in the last few years since ‘18, when we won it last.” said Plato manager Adam Dammann, “It’s a lot of new kids, young guys — a  lot baseball experience playing a lot of college ball — but it’s still learning to play with each other in a big moment like this.”

Plato advances to the second round of the tournament, deep in pitching and history, but facing questions about its offense after a difficult run through its regional playoffs and an opening-round victory, despite being outhit and committing three errors. Will their mix of young talent, veteran leadership and competitive swagger be enough to add another date to the sleeve? Will they need longer sleeves?

“We’ve got a couple [veteran] guys, with Matt Odegaard, Adam Prehn and even Joe Copas who returned to us this year. It’s a good veteran spot for those guys to step up and keep the young guys calm.” said Dammann, “We understand that sometimes we’re not gonna hit the ball the greatest, we’re gonna have some errors sometimes. It’s about keeping your head, keeping your cool out there, making sure you continue to perform, and pushing that stuff out.” 

The Blue Jays will next face the Redbirds of Luverne, the top seed from region 13C on Saturday, Aug. 26.

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