It’s time once again for the Region 7C Tournament. Although the tournament will have a new look and feel to it, fans can expect to see exciting performances and thrilling moments once again this year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no central host for this year’s tournament. Games will be played at the high seed each day, giving fans a chance to take in a handful of games throughout all the great ballparks in the Crow River Valley League. Games will also have an attendance maximum of 250 people this year.
The 2020 Region 7C Tournament field has some familiar names and some new ones. The Waconia Lakers, a perennial powerhouse in the CRVL, are back once again as the No. 1 seed. After missing the postseason last year due to being ineligible, the Lakers are back with a vengeance. A 12-1 record by the Lakers during the regular season is all you need to know. Waconia comes in as the top seed and for good reason as they are poised for a deep postseason run.
The Winsted Wildcats, back in the Region 7C Tournament for a second-straight season, the Wildcats were one of the big surprises in the CRVL this season. An impressive start to the season led them to a 10-3 regular-season record, earning them the No. 2 seed in the Region 7C Tournament. While seeing the Wildcats as the No. 2 seed might be a surprise, the way they win games isn’t. Pitching and defense are what makes the Wildcats go as they boast one of the best pitching staffs in the entire CRVL coming into the tournament.
The Watertown Red Devils are the No. 3 seed in the Region 7C Tournament and will be looking to get the monkey off their back. The Red Devils haven’t been to the state tournament since 2008, and have had their fair share of struggles in the Region 7C Tournament in recent years. Back for a fourth-straight season, Watertown is just 1-5 in the Region 7C games as of late. They’ve also lost their past five Region 7C Games coming into the 2020 tournament. With the addition of young talent and some pitching help, Watertown will be looking to break through this year as the No. 3 seed.
The Young America Cardinals came into the 2020 season as one of the favorites in the CRVL, if not the whole state. The Cardinals have taken the state by storm with their postseason success the past two seasons, but a couple of tough losses in the regular season in a grueling schedule has them coming into the Region 7C Tournament as the No. 4 seed. A 9-4 record in the regular season wasn’t anything special for Young America this season, but that doesn’t mean this team isn’t. The Cardinals are loaded with talent from top to bottom and will be looking to continue their postseason success in 2020.
In last year’s state tournament, the Cologne Hollanders became a state favorite in a hurry. An 8-5 record in the regular season might not have been what they hoped for coming in, but the Hollanders enter the Region 7C Tournament as one of the most explosive offenses in the tournament as the No. 5 seed.
Rounding out the final three teams in the Region 7C Tournament are the Green Isle Irish (No. 6 seed), the Mayer Blazers (No. 7 seed), and the Carver Black Sox (No. 8 seed). The Irish feature a young and talented lineup eager to show what they can do. The Mayer Blazers are in their first season back since 2016, but that hasn’t stopped from finding success. The Carver Black Sox are coming off a down regular season, but are playing well at the right time as they round out the field for the tournament.
Below is an in-depth look at each team in the Region 7C Tournament.
(1) Waconia Lakers
After sitting out the postseason last year, the Waconia Lakers return to postseason play as the No. 1 seed in the Region 7C Tournament. The Lakers have pitching, defense, and a powerful offense to go with that all making them a tough team to beat.
Kodey Simon and Chris Bullis lead the way for the Waconia’s pitching staff. The two rank among the league’s best in almost every category and give the Lakers a chance to win every time he takes the mound. Along with Simon and Bullis, the Lakers have added some impressive relief pitchers. Pitchers like Nick Kivi, Connor Hemme, and Ethan Swanson give Waconia some added depth to their bullpen which will be a big help for the Lakers going forward. The Lakers also have veterans Ryan Naughton and Ben Smothers to lean on in crucial spots.
Offensively, the weapons are endless at the plate for Waconia. With only nine guys in the lineup, the Lakers have the luxury of having big-time hitters to come off the bench, as well.
(2) Winsted Wildcats
PItching and defense win games. That’s what the Winsted Wildcats take to heart. A surprise season this year, Winsted used its dominant pitching all season long to enter as the No. 2 seed. The emergence of Alex Heimerl and Leighton Buhr, combined with veterans Shane Khan and Jake Volness, have given the Wildcats the luxury of trotting out a true starter each and every game this season. The addition of Heimerl and Buhr has also helped Volness and Khan.
Both Khan and Volness got extra rest throughout the season instead of racking up innings which ultimately led to both of them posting impressive seasons.
Offensively, the Wildcats don’t feature a player that will blow fans away. Together though, they get things down and find ways to win their own way. Whether it’s bunting, stealing bases, or hit and runs, the Wildcats are one of the best in the CRVL in making things happen.
Ryan Quast sets the tone at the top of the lineup for Winsted. In the leadoff spot, Quast has emerged as a spark plug for the Wildcats as he sets the table for his teammates behind him. Following Quast, Winsted trots out veterans Jake Prehn, Garrett Zander, and Curtis Herbolsheimer. All three have come through in big spots for Winsted this season as they rely on each other to get things done.
(3) Watertown Red Devils
Nobody is aware of the struggles at the Region 7C Tournament more than the Red Devils themselves. A 10-3 record this season in which they came out with some big wins, Watertown will be looking to break through this time around as the No. 3 seed.
Fans are well aware of pitchers Pat Tschida and Zach Iten.
What they might not recognize is the new hard-throwing relief pitcher Holt Hunziker who gives Watertown a legit option to latch things down late in games.
As good as Tschida has been in the past few seasons, it continued in 2020. Once again he enters as one of the top players in the tournament whether he’s on the mound or at the plate.
Tschida has been the big winner for the Region 7C champions the past few seasons in the draft, but he and the Red Devils will be looking to make some draft picks of their own this season.
(4) Young America Cardinals
You’d be hard-pressed to find a team with a more difficult schedule then the Young America Cardinals this season. Due to the virus postponing games, the Cardinals had a grueling finish to the regular season.
Young America had nine games in the final 13 days of the regular season. That grueling stretch to end the season should have Young America prepared for what lies ahead in the Region 7C Tournament.
Young America features a number of pitchers willing to eat up innings on the mound. Almost any guy who takes the mound gives the Cardinals a legit chance to get the win.
Offensively, Young America features a lineup that gives opposing teams nightmares. From top to bottom, the Cardinals have power, speed, and clutch hitting make each inning a big inning just waiting to happen.
(5) Cologne Hollanders
Over the past few seasons, wins and success have not been easy to come by for the Cologne Hollanders. Flash forward to the last two seasons and the Hollander have made the biggest jump forward of any CRVL team. From being a bottom dweller to a team looking to make annual appearances at the state tournament, the Hollanders are a team on the rise and they’re here to win.
Like the Cardinals, Cologne features a lineup from top to bottom that can score runs in a hurry. The Hollanders are a team that feeds off each other as they are one of the best at putting together big innings. Cologne has a knack for not settling for one or two runs in an inning and breaking a game open in a hurry. They also are one of the best teams in the league in getting out to quick starts.
On the mound, Cologne features a trio of top pitchers to lean on. Torben Urdahl and Jayce Luna have been inning eaters all season long, and Cologne still has Christian Johnson in their pocket when needed and is available.
(6) Green Isle Irish
When the Green Isle Irish take the field for the Region 7C Tournament, be sure to pick up a program and check out the roster. The Irish feature nearly a whole new team filled with some young and upcoming talent.
Green Isle struggled out of the gate as their youth showed. Since then, the Irish have earned the respect from the rest of the league as their young talent has taken big steps forward over the course of the season.
Offensively, Green Isle has the talent to hang with any team. With Diego Waisanen leading the way, Green Isle is a team that just needs one big inning to get the bats going for the rest of the game.
(7) Mayer Blazers
Yes, there is a team in the CRVL called the Mayer Blazers. In their first season back in the league since 2016, the Blazers are back at the Region 7C Tournament after knocking off the Brownton Bruins in the three games.
Josh Anthony, formerly of the Green Isle Irish, has taken the program over this season. In his first year as player/manager of the Blazers, he led them to a 6-7 record and to the Region 7C Tournament as the No. 7 seed.
The Blazers have only gotten better as the season has progressed. Instead of relying on their top four hitters to provide the offense, Mayer has been getting contributions from all over the lineup in recent games.
(8) Carver Black Sox
Teams and fans of the CRVL surely know who the Carver Black Sox are. A team that has built a powerhouse over the past few seasons comes into the Region 7C Tournament as the No. 8 seed after a down regular season. Carver got off to a tough start out of the gate and was never able to bounce back fully from it. That didn’t stop them from reaching the Region 7C Tournament once again as they upset No. 7 Hamburg in two-straight games in the CRVL playoffs as the No. 10 seed.
Offensively, Carver has a few new faces that can still knock the cover off the ball. There’s familiar faces as well like Andrew Weber, David Dolan, Peter Benson, and Sam Warner. The Black Sox also added a key piece in signing Jay Bresnahan away from Hamburg. Bresnahan had a big year both on the mound and at the plate which gives Carver even more depth this season.