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September 22, 2021

8/6/2021 2:21:00 PM
Bulldogs advance in playoffs after upsets over Rum River

Eastern Minny League Central Playoffs
The Eastern Minny League Central playoffs were played in a double-elimination format.  The first place Isanti Redbirds were given an automatic bid into the Region 1C playoffs, leaving three teams – the Bulldogs, the North Branch Nighthawks, and the Rum River Bandits – to fight it out for the remaining two bids to regions.  The league decided to play all three playoff games in one day.  The Bulldogs hosted the playoff tournament at Pat Collins Field at Chisago Lakes High School on Saturday, July 31.

Chisago Lakes 10, Rum River 5
Trailing 5-3 in Game 1, the third-seeded Bulldogs rallied for seven runs in the seventh inning to beat the second-seeded Bandits 10-5.  Hunter Lindstrom pitched a complete game for the Bulldogs to pick up the win.  The win sent the Bulldogs to Game 2, with the winner of that game advancing to the Region 1C playoffs.  The loss by the Bandits meant they would play an elimination game in Game 3 against the loser of Game 2.

The Bulldogs took a lead in the top of the first.  With one out, Tyler Stilp doubled, Dusty Rhodes reached on an error and Logan Bjorkman walked to load the bases.  Colling Hackl hit what looked like a potential double play ball, but a Bandit error allowed two runs to score.  Adam Brown followed with a run-scoring single to left to make the score 3-0.  In the bottom of the second, the Bandits loaded the bases with one out.  Lindstrom struck out the next batter.  The next batter hit a long foul popup down the left field line.  Third baseman Stilp raced after the ball, dove just a couple of feet from the side fence and caught the ball over his shoulder for the third out of the inning.  The Bandits scored in each of the next three innings, adding one run in the third, two in the fourth and two in the fifth.  Each time, Lindstrom and the Bulldog defense were able to get out of the inning with limited damage, keeping the game within reach.  Lindstrom dominated after that, allowing just one of the next eleven batters to reach base.

With one out the top of the seventh and the Bulldogs trailing 5-3, Rhodes walked, Bjorkman doubled, and Hackl walked to load the bases.  Brown was hit by a pitch to force in one run.  Reed Marquardt then drilled a double to deep right center field to clear the bases and put the Bulldogs up 7-5.  Marquardt got caught in a rundown between second and third for the second out, but the damage was done.  Lindstrom reached on an error, Derrick Kluge singled and Max Kelly singled to drive in another run.  Stilp walked, and Rhodes doubled to the wall in center to drive in two runs to make the score 10-5.  Lindstrom did the rest.  The Bandits got a couple of baserunners with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Lindstrom struck out Rick Wells looking to end the game.

The resilient Lindstrom allowed 15 hits, walked just one and struck out seven.  Most importantly, he came up with big pitches when he needed to.

North Branch 14, Chisago Lakes 4 (8 innings)
In Game 2, North Branch Nighthawk starter Jimmy Skroch struck out 12 Bulldogs and allowed just three hits in six innings as the top-seeded Nighthawks cruised to a 14-4 win over the Bulldogs.  The game was shortened to eight innings because of the ten-run rule.  The win sent the Nighthawks to the Region 1C tournament in Princeton.  The loss sent the Bulldogs to an elimination game against the Rum River Bandits.

The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning.  Leadoff batter Reed Marquardt walked.  An errant pickoff throw by Skroch rolled down the right field line and Marquardt headed all the way to third.  A late throw to third glanced off Marquardt’s helmet and rolled away.  Marquardt scored easily.  But that was the extent of the damage against the hard-throwing Skroch.
The Nighthawks blew the game open with six runs in the third inning to take an 8-1 lead, highlighted by a two-run homer by Noah Wolfe.  For the game, the Nighthawks had ten hits and were helped along by nine walks by Bulldog pitchers and three errors.  Meanwhile, Skroch was mowing down the Bulldogs.  He struck out six straight batters from the third through fifth innings.  Skroch and two relievers were able to overcome six Nighthawk errors in holding the Bulldogs at bay.   Marquardt took the loss for the Bulldogs.  He allowed nine runs in five innings, but only four of those runs were earned.  And Marquardt struck out seven Nighthawks.

Chisago Lakes 4, Rum River 3
In Game 3 – the third game of the day for the Bulldogs – Logan Bjorkman hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead and the Bulldogs hung on to defeat the Rum River Bandits 4-3 in the final game of the league playoffs.  Tyler Stilp pitched a complete game to pick up the win.  The win sent the Bulldogs to the Region 1C playoffs as the number nine seed, and the loss for the Bandits ended their season.

The Bandits took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.  The leadoff batter reached on an error.  A single and two groundouts produced the game’s first run.  In the top of the second, Bjorkman led off with a double to left.  One out later, Collin Hackl was hit by a pitch and Dylan Magnuson walked to load the bases.  Hunter Lindstrom dumped a single to right to drive in a run.  Tanner Marquardt drew a walk to force in another run and put the Bulldogs up 2-1.  But the rally ended there as Reed Marquardt struck out and Stilp popped out to end the inning.  In the bottom of the inning, a walk and a couple of singles produced a run for the Bandits, tying the game at 2-2.

In the top of the fifth, Reed Marquardt lined a soft single into short left center.  He tried to stretch the hit into a double but was gunned down at second in a close play.  Stilp singled to right.  Dusty Rhodes flew out to center and Bjorkman stepped to the plate.  On a 1-0 count, Bandit pitcher Mitch Ziebarth left a ball in the middle of the plate and Bjorkman made him pay.  Bjorkman unloaded on the pitch, hitting a no-doubter over the fence in straightaway left to put the Bulldogs up 4-2.

The Bandits added a run in the bottom of the seventh on a double, a single and a groundout to cut the Bulldog lead to 4-3.  In the bottom of the eighth, the Bandit leadoff batter singled to right.  The next batter grounded to second, forcing out the lead runner.  With a runner on second and one out, the next batter hit a grounder to third.  With no chance to get the runner at second, third baseman Reed Marquardt threw the ball to first for the second out.  First baseman Cole Hentges noticed that the baserunner had strayed off second base and fired the ball to second.  The runner was tagged out in a rundown, ending the inning.  In the bottom of the ninth, Shawn Motl singled with two outs.  Tyler Kronstedt then ripped a ball down the third base line.  The ball hit a few inches before the third base bag and appeared to bounce over the corner of the bag and down the left field line, but the umpire called it foul.  Kronstedt flew out to center on the next pitch, and the Bulldogs were on their way to the regional playoffs.

Bulldog Banter
The ninth-seeded Bulldogs will face the eighth-seeded East Bethel Bandits in a Region 1C single-elimination play-in game tonight at Solheim Veterans Field in Princeton at 7 p.m.  The winner of tonight’s game advances to the double-elimination portion of the playoffs as the number eight seed, where they will face the top-seeded Isanti Redbirds at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Princeton.  The playoffs will continue this Sunday and next weekend to determine two teams that will represent Region 1C in the Class C state tournament.
The North Branch Nighthawks are the number five seed for regions, and they will face the fourth-seeded Quamba Cubs at Princeton at 2 p.m. on Saturday for their regional playoff opener.
The Bulldogs played a lot of close games this season but have won just four games so far.  Three of those wins have come in four games against Rum River, a pretty good team.

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