By John Sherman
After winning the State American Legion Baseball Tournament last week, Tri-City Red was set to open the Central Plains Sectional Thursday, Aug. 20, in Dickinson, North Dakota.
Tri-City Red, a team comprised of players from Arden Hills, Mounds View and Shoreview, had to win two games on Monday, July 31, to become the state champion at CHS Field in downtown St. Paul.
In the semifinal game, Tri-City Red’s Erik Holloman gave his teammates the thrill of a lifetime, when his long fly ball cleared the left-field fence to beat Eden Prairie 8-6. Ross Indlecoffer was the winning pitcher in relief of middle reliever Matt Herold, who had taken over for starter Ty Koehn in the second inning.
Tri-City Red had less than 45 minutes to regroup before taking on undefeated Ham Lake for the state championship in a 1 o’clock ball game.
Manager Nik Anderson of Tri-City Red picked Scott Kalthoff to start the game on the mound. Kalthoff pitched to contact and lasted 6 and 2/3 innings without striking out a Ham Lake hitter. His teammates played solid defense to check the Bengals with two runs. Adam Davidson came on in relief in the seventh inning and finished the game by striking out three and allowing 1 run in 2 and 2/3 innings.
“The intensity and passion of this team is amazing,” said Tri-City Red catcher and team leader Nate Fredrickson.
“We’re a bunch of grinders,” said coach Anderson. “We have 18 guys on the team who all play a part, and we have the attitude that no one is bigger than the team. Nate [Fredrickson] is the leader. If anybody is down, he gets them right back up. After graduating in 2016, he came back to play another year of Legion ball … he just loves it.”
On its march to the state title, Tri-City Red won five of games in the state tourney. The team left for Dickinson earlier this week with a record of 30-10.
Going back to the beginning of the State Legion Tournament, Friday, July 28, Tri-City Red opened with a 6-3 victory over Mankato National. Matt Laursen pitched a complete game, scattering seven hits. Fredrickson, Indlecoffer, Ben Jepko and Ryan Nickel had two hits apiece for Tri-City Red.
Later that day, Tri-City Red won a wild 16-9 game over Eastview. There were 34 hits in the game, 16 of them by Tri-City Red. Pitching was a war of attrition as the starter, Koehn, got credit for the win. Indlecoffer had three hits for Tri-City Red.
The second day of tournament play, Tri-City Red had only one game, which it won 4-1 over Waconia. It was one of the best-pitched games of the entire tournament, as Ian Bahn won with relief help from Justin Langer and Holloman, who took on the closer’s role.
Tri-City Red lost to Ham Lake 4-3 on the third day of the tournament, July 30. Ham Lake pitcher Joey Messier made a spectacular fielding play on a liner to end the game. Jeff LeMay had two hits to pace Tri-City’s seven-hit attack.
The loss to Ham Lake meant that in order to win the state title, Tri-City Red had to beat both Eden Prairie and Ham Lake on the final day.
It was a tough task, but the host team had the tools to do the job.
Laursen, one of Tri-City Red’s starting pitchers, pointed out the key to his team’s success this season.
“It’s our stellar defense,” he said. “I have full confidence that plays will be made behind me. Anything in the air is going to be caught.”
“This is an easy group to lead,” Fredrickson added. “Coming into the season, all of us had the same goal.”