Town Ball Classic provides memorable day at Target Field

By Nick Gerhardt

Scoremonster Contributor

Who says a tie is all that bad?

Kimball and Lake Henry met for the first time Saturday since they decided the 2017 Class C state championship but this time it was on a little bigger stage, you might say.

At the fourth annual Town Ball Classic at Target Field, the Express and Lakers once again did not disappoint despite finishing in a 2-2 tie. The game was called after the eighth inning due to time constraints. Last year’s Class B champion Miesville was set to face Victoria at 12:30 p.m.

The tie further cemented a budding rivalry between the two teams after Kimball defeated Lake Henry 6-4 in a back-and-forth affair in Green Isle last season for the state title.

Saturday was more about the experience for the players but they still turned in a fine game for fans. Kimball claimed a 2-0 lead behind a first-inning run and another in the third inning. Much like last year’s state title game, Lake Henry came back with a run in the fifth and then another in the sixth to tie it up.

“You just can’t comprehend it all,” Express manager Tom Marquardt said. “You get down here, just the playing conditions are so immaculate. It’s just a great atmosphere and I’m thankful for the opportunity to come down here.”

Even Marquardt got into the game in the sixth inning. He reached on an error with two outs but was left there.  

“It felt dang good,” Marquardt said of standing on first base.

Austin Ruehle gave the Express a 1-0 lead in the first inning after he led off with a walk. He later scored on a wild pitch.

In the third inning Kyle Winter provided Kimball’s its first hit of the game against Lake Henry starter Weston Brinkman. Winter scored after Ruehle singled and Jordan Joseph got a base hit to extend the lead to 2-0.

Brinkman got things started for the Lakers in the fifth inning with a lead-off single. Ryan Wuertz followed with a base hit and Shane Kampsen’s flyout allowed Brinkman to score after he reached there on an error.

Aaron Savelkoul tied things up at 2-2 behind a second-effort slide. Savelkoul came home on a Wuertz single but tripped up well in front the plate. The throw came well up the line and Savelkoul had plenty of time to slide into home … again.

Lake Henry had a chance to grab the lead in the seventh but got thrown out on the basepaths with nobody out and hit into an inning-ending double play. The Lakers left two runners on in the eighth as well after they put both on with one out.

Brinkman went four innings for Lake Henry and gave up two runs on five hits. He struck out two and walked five but the Lakers had to be savvy about how to use their pitching because they have a league game against Elrosa scheduled for Sunday. They even brought Jon Lieser out of retirement to pitch at Target Field.

Ben Johnson went three innings for the Express and he gave up one hit, one walk and struck out four. Wuertz finished 2-for-4 to lead Lake Henry, which finished with six hits.

Ruehle finished 2-for-3 with a run and Joseph went 2-for-4 with an RBI for Kimball, which finished with seven hits.  

The experience was enough for both teams even if there wasn’t a winner.

“Everyone was just commenting, the field is nice and flat,” Lakers third base coach Tom Ludwig said. “It doesn’t have the bumps that our field has. I think our batboy had the best line, he asked his dad, ‘Dad, is this field smaller than ours?’ And our field is 295 down the lines and 340 to center.”

Victoria honors former manager

The Victoria Vics used the occasion to honor Mike Poppitz by having each player wear his number 44 on the back of their jerseys. Poppitz died in December of a heart attack and managed the Vics the past 36 years.

“As much as we can do to honor Mike because he’s was a legend in this baseball club,” Vics longtime player and neighbor Chris Thulin said. “I played on this team for 18 years and I saw Mike more than I saw my own parents.”

It was just the second game of the season for Victoria and it’s been an adjustment not seeing Poppitz out there.

“Our first game was last Sunday, it’s almost teary, I’m so used to seeing Mike out at third base and he wasn’t there and was just really strange,” Thulin said.

Miesville went to work in the batter’s box against the Vics, pounding out 18 hits en route to a 13-0 win.

The Mudhens led 10-0 after four innings with Brian Sprout capping a four-run fourth with a two-run double.

Riley Sweeney threw two innings for Victoria and allowed four runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out two.

The Vics struggled to hit the ball throughout and finished with just two for the game. They did have a chance to score in the fifth when they loaded the bases with one out but Miesville’s Andrew Werner struck out the final two hitters to end the inning.

Jacob Dickmeyer started for the Mudhens and threw the first two innings. He allowed one hit, struck out four and walked one.

“For a lot of our older guys for us when we were younger our big thing was playing at the Dome, so this is a first for a lot of us,” Miesville manager Chris Olean said. “I think there was a lot of excitement to come here. It was fun to get all the kids out there, too.”

St. Paul All-Stars take down crosstown rivals

— Submitted by Bryan Ludwig

The game pitted some of the best talent from the four Class A amateur leagues (Skyline, St. Paul Municipal, Park National, and Riverview) against one another in a battle for baseball bragging rights that would make Minnie and Paul proud. The visiting St. Paul All-Stars were comprised of players from the Skyline and St. Paul Leagues, while the home team Minneapolis All-Stars drew their roster from the Park National and Riverview Leagues.

The St. Paul All-Stars were managed by Phil McDermott (St. Paul Capitals) and Bryan Ludwig (St. Paul Mudhens). The Minneapolis All-Stars were managed by Jay Asmus (Minneapolis Angels).

Don Erdall (P – Minnetonka Millers) got the start on the bump for Minneapolis. He gave up two, two-out hits as Ryan Abrahamson (3B – St. Paul Capitals) singled to right followed by a hustle double by Josh Fleury (1B – Rosetown A’s). Erdall got out of the first-inning jam by striking out Walker Rogers (SS – St. Paul Mudhens) to end the threat.

Each team went down in order until the top of the fourth inning, when St. Paul strung together three consecutive hits to plate the first run of the game off Jon-Eric Urseth (P – Minneapolis Cobras). Nicho Roessler(3B – St. Anthony Hogs) led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a single to left by Ben Suits (1B – Metro Knights). Chris Zeller (SS – Kelley Fuel Diesel) plated Roessler with an RBI double to right center. Urseth worked out of the jam by inducing a ground ball to third with runners on second and third before striking out Jordan Buck (DH – Kelley Fuel Diesel) with the bases loaded.

Minneapolis answered quickly by scoring a run of its own in the bottom of the fourth off Ben Meyer (P – St. Paul Mudhens). Blaine Rutledge (OF – Minnetonka Millers) led off the inning with a double to the gap and scored on a Mike Carrell (OF – Minneapolis Angels) RBI single. Meyer was able to get out of the inning with the help of his defense turning a slick double play to clear the bases. Adam Seaman (C – St. Louis Park) roped a two-out double and advanced to third on a passed ball, but a sliding stop by Max Selim (2B – Highland Park) stranded Seaman and kept the score knotted at 1-1.

St. Paul struck again in the top of the sixth as Zeller and Selim led off the inning with a single and walk. Both came around to score two batters later on a throwing error, giving the St. Paul All-Stars a 3-1 lead.

Minneapolis threatened in the bottom of the frame with a one-out double. Pitchers Shane Moore (Metro Knights) and Sam Blevins (North End Biscuits) combined to put out the fire in the sixth and preserve the lead for St. Paul.

Neither side really threatened again as the pitching in the final three innings was superb seeing seven total batters strikeout. Bennett Wiggins (P – St. Anthony Hogs) pitched a solid eighth to earn the hold for St. Paul. Alex Lampert (P – Hopkins Berries) ended the best scoring chance St. Paul had in the late innings with runners on first and second in the top of the ninth by inducing a fly ball to center and ending the inning with a strikeout.

Trevor Dudar (P – St. Paul Mudhens) came on for the save in bottom of the ninth. Dudar gave up a leadoff single before setting down the next three Minneapolis hitters in order and ending the game with a strikeout to secure the 3-1 victory for the St. Paul All-Stars. Thank you to all the family, friends, and baseball fans that gutted out the heat.

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