When people look back on the 99th Minnesota Amateur State Baseball Tournament, there will be an endless amount of memories to relive. There were memorable moments that took place on the field. There were memorable stories that took place off the field.
It was a tournament to remember for a number of reasons. Despite the 2022 amateur baseball season being over, this sports writer can’t let go quite yet. That’s why I’m taking a look back on some of the most memorable moments that happened in Faribault, Dundas, and Miesville as part of the Class C and Class B state tournaments.
Bird Island outlasts Loretto in the longest state tournament game ever
This seems like a good one to start with. The title says it all.
As I was driving home from Waconia after covering the two games I saw that two of the other teams (Watertown and Loretto) were still playing. The Red Devils game ended just about when I got home, but when I got settled in, Loretto and Bird Island were still playing. I thought it worked out perfectly for me to catch a few innings before heading to bed. I was wrong.
I ended up watching 13 innings as it was the Bullfrogs who came through in the bottom of the 21st inning to finally get the win. The longest game in state tournament history was previously 20 innings. After we got to the 14th or 15th inning, I started to root for the record.
We got the record for the longest game in state tournament history and my amount of sleep took a big hit. The game ended just before 12:30 a.m. At 5 a.m., I was back at work at my part-time job on the golf course.
Chanhassen Red Birds go down in the opening round
There was a consensus on who was the favorite in Class B and for good reason. The Chanhassen Red Birds were the four-time defending Class B champions and looked poised to add another one. The Coon Rapids Red Birds had other plans.
Coon Rapids pulled the unthinkable knocking off the Class B powerhouse. The win by Coon Rapids opened the door for all other teams with the powerhouse out of the tournament early on.
With Chanhassen gone, Class B had a new feel to it as it was literally anyone’s tournament to win. I’m not the biggest Class B guy as all the teams I cover are Class C, but I found myself getting into it more and more as it turned out to be an exciting tournament with the Rochester Royals eventually claiming the state title.
Dumont takes the state by storm again
Last year at the state tournament, the Dumont Saints were one of the darlings of the tournament. After winning a game last year, the Saints became a fan favorite as people anxiously awaited to see what movie they would be watching on their way down to the state tournament.
In 2022, Dumont took the state by storm again but on a whole new level. Not only did they make it to Labor Day weekend, but the Saints were also part of what could be one of the best town ball stories of all time. Two members of the team were in a wedding on the North Dakota/Montana border the night before the game. Instead of driving back and trying to make the game on time, they used a different way to get back in time and it paid off in a big way as they not only won, but both players came through in big spots and had big games in the win for Dumont.
Webster Sox becomes a household name
Just five years ago, the Webster Sox had a 51-game losing streak. 2022 was a different story.
Not only did the Sox make their first region tournament appearance, but they also qualified for the state tournament for the first time in their organization’s history.
The run didn’t end there for Webster. The Sox rattled off a pair of wins to reach Labor Day in their first state tournament appearance.
One of the best parts of the state tournament is seeing new teams make runs. We all know the perennial powerhouses each year, but there’s something special and exciting when a team out of nowhere makes a run as Webster did.
Coming into the state tournament, all I knew was that they were one of the worst teams in the state a handful of years ago. Now they are a legitimate team that has shown what they could do on the state’s biggest stage. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Fergus Falls Hurricanes story
The 2022 state tournament was filled with awesome stories. One story that nobody is talking about is the Fergus Falls Hurricanes. It’s probably because they went 0-1 in the tournament and had their lone game moved to Waconia due to the weather.
The story surrounding the Hurricanes is a great one. Back in June, the team almost folded as they were having trouble getting players to show up to games and sign with the team. The team stuck together through it all though and ended up winning the Region 16 title.
Fergus Falls showed up to their state tournament game with 10 guys and nearly pulled off an upset against the Waconia Lakers. Down 7-0 early and 9-3 later in the game, the Hurricanes refused to go away quietly.
In the bottom of the ninth, Fergus Falls nearly walked off the Lakers with a rally if it wasn’t for a tremendous scoop at first base by Waconia’s AJ Friedrich. Had that ball got past him, the tying and winning run for Fergus Falls would have scored easily and the Hurricanes would have been playing on Labor Day weekend.
I give a lot of credit to those guys for sticking out the season and the run they went on. They were a play or two away from knocking off a powerhouse in Waconia on their home field. Guys who play hard and love the game are what I love about amateur baseball and Fergus Falls was the epitome of that in this tournament.
Weekend No. 2
The second weekend of the tournament is my favorite one. After getting a look at some of the teams on opening weekend, it’s so much fun to see those teams take their shots at region champions on weekend two.
This weekend didn’t disappoint one bit. Of the 16 games in Class C, nine of them were decided by one run and five of them went into extra innings. You couldn’t have asked for better games or matchups all weekend long and the fans were treated to some incredible games. It seemed like almost every game came down to the final pitch and that makes everything that much more interesting.
It’s crazy to think that if you look at the teams that made the Sweet 16, more than half of them could be out of it wasn’t for a play or two late in the games. Nisswa, the eventual state champions, were down 5-1 in the eighth inning before rallying to win the game. Loretto and Bird Island played an instant classic that lasted 21 innings. Watkins and Red Wing treated fans to one of the best pitching duels in the past handful of years. Hutchinson and Bluffton proved that no game is ever over until the final out.
All that happened in one weekend and it was a pleasure to be able to take that all in and be a part of it.
As good as the 2022 state tournament was, I’m even more excited for what lies ahead in 2023. The 100th anniversary of the MBA amateur state baseball tournament is poised to be as good as ever and just so happens to be in my backyard with Delano, Dassel-Cokato, and Litchfield combining to host the tournament. Those are three of the top parks in the state with some of the best people in amateur baseball running those organizations. Fans will not be disappointed in what is coming next year.
The state of amateur baseball is so healthy right now and its popularity is at an all-time high. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead next year in 2023. There are some big things planned for it all and I can’t wait to be part of it once again.
Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports