Isanti claims Class C title

Posted on Sep 05, 2011

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BROWNTON, Minn. – The Isanti Redbirds won the Class C State Tournament on Monday with a gut-wrenching 4-3, 13-inning thriller over the Waconia Lakers.  The Redbirds had earlier defeated the Lakers on Saturday night 11-5 in the winners’ bracket final. 

Isanti won six games in a row at the tournament, including three in extra innings.  They beat Lake Henry 4-1 in 10 innings, Sacred Heart 2-1 in 10 innings, Miltona 4-2, Nisswa 8-4, and the two Waconia victories.   The win capped Isanti’s first State Title.

“It feels real good,” said manager Steve Allen.  “We have been playing intense games for so long, and some how they find a way.  Every team in this tournament just battled us and from the beginning of the year, we got knocked out in regions last year, and we said we wanted to play and execute and play good ball all year and whatever happens happens.  This is such a veteran core of guys they’re just a lot of fun to be around.” 

Isanti started the scoring in the first as Packy Lind and Eric Rysdam both walked and Kyle Johnson singled in Lind.

Waconia answered in the top of the second as Craig LePlante doubled and Nick Litfin advanced him and got to first himself on a bunt single.  LePlante scored on Peter Brown’s double play grounder. 

It was a pitcher’s duel until the seventh when Waconia scored one run.  Robbie Smothers singled off the third baseman’s glove, was sacrificed to second by Justin Klingelhutz, Ben Smothers hit a sharp single to center that Robbie couldn’t advance on, Chris Bullis walked to load the bases and Jeremy Salden walked on a 3-2 count to force in the run. 

Isanti responded in the bottom of the eighth when Packy Lind reached on an error by the shortstop, Rysdam sacrificed him to second, and Bud Heifort doubled right down the right field line to score Lind.  Then Tyler Schaff singled in Heifort on a base hit to left.  Bud (Tom) Heifort is another veteran with the Redbirds.  He hit the ball well and got the double to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth and scored the possible winner on Tyler Schaff’s single.

After his double, Manager Allen was going to pinch run for him, but Heifort would have none of it.  “I told Steve no, no, no.  I said I’ve been around, I’m not going to get picked off… I was going on the swing and you would have had to tackle me to get me to stop going around third there,” said Heifort.  The catcher used good judgment too and didn’t try to block him as Bud rolled and slid through a cloud of dust, safely into home. 

Heifort then came in to pitch the ninth, but he couldn’t put it away.  He struck out Dalton Sawyer, but Ben Smothers got a hit.  Ronnie Olson then doubled down the left field line putting runners on second and third.  Chris Bullis hit a sacrifice fly to left scoring Smothers and tying the game. 

From there it was a pitcher’s duel again.  Bullis threw the whole game for Waconia, but it was the fourth pitcher for Isanti that made the difference.  Ryan Burns, a draftee from Champlin, threw three innings and only gave up one hit while striking out 6.  He was the winning pitcher for Isanti. 

Isanti finally scored the winner in the bottom of the 13th.  Packy Lind reached on an error by the second baseman.  Eric Rysdam sacrificed  him to second, Kyle Johnson was intentionally walked, and Bud Heifort hit another shot to first that went off Craig LaPlante and to the outfield, for an error and Lind scored from second starting the victory celebration. 

There was a chance that the Class C MVP Kyle Johnson was going to get a chance to win it before Heifort did, but he was intentionally walked with the winning run on second to get to Heifort.  Did he think that Bullis was going to pitch to him?  “No, I didn’t,” said Johnson. ” I played against the pitcher (Bullis) in college and the first time I came up to bat, he said {The famous Kyle Johnson} so I didn’t think he would pitch to me with the game on the line,” continued Johnson. 

Johnson played with Isanti for nine years and Heifort has played amateur baseball for 15 years.  The first State Tournament that he played in was as a draftee from Owatonna.  Tink Larson and Waseca drafted him in 1996, which coincidentally was also at Glencoe and Brownton, and he has been captivated by the tournament ever since.   Just another couple of  veterans to lead the Redbirds. 

“I watch some of these young teams come up and the thing that they are missing is the veteran leadership,” said Allen. “Bud went early in the year and some of the guys weren’t hitting and running or giving themselves up and he just modeled it for the younger players.  That is so much more powerful than anything I can say,” said Allen. 

It payed off with a State Class C Championsip. 

Click here for photos of the day.

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