Red's title hopes take a hit

Pitching depth is one of Tri-City Red's strengths and that depth will put to the test over the next couple of days if Red is to advance in the American Legion baseball state tournament. A loss on Saturday made Red's road to the final much longer.

Tri-City came out on the short end of a 2-0 decision against Burnsville at Chaska Athletic Park and now faces a longer road to the title contest. With the loss, Red drops into the loser's bracket and must win twice on Sunday and again on Monday morning to reach the championship final.

Tri-City Red takes on Eden Prairie at 10 a.m. on Sunday at Chanhassen High School and a victory in that game sets up a 4 p.m. game at Chaska Athletic Park against either New Ulm Gold or Lakeville North.

If Tri-City wins both games on Sunday, it will play in the loser's bracket final at 11 a.m. on Monday. The championship final is Monday at 2 p.m. Both of Monday's games are set for Chaska Athletic Park.

On Saturday, Tri-City's Jake Hanzalik and Burnsville's Bo Hellquist locked horns in a pitcher's duel. Hanzalik, who shut out Hamline Purple in the Fourth District final a week earlier, gave up two unearned runs on four hits but Hellquist was stronger in blanking Red while giving up only three hits.

Burnsville scored the only runs of the game in the sixth and eighth innings. A fielding error allowed the run to score in the sixth and a botched attempt at throwing out a base-stealer led to the run in the eighth.

Offensively, Tri-City Red got single hits in the sixth and eighth innings but double plays snuffed out both threats. In the ninth, Red mounted its most serious threat of the game. With a runner on and two out, Brett Becker doubled down the right field line to put runners on second and third. Following an intentional walk to Max Knutson, Sam Hentges flew out to right to end the game.

Another thing that makes Tri-City Red's road to the final difficult has to do with a change made to the tournament bracket this year. In the past, a team in Tri-City's position would be playing its fourth game of the tournament against an opponent playing its fifth game. With the changes this year, Tri-City and Eden Prairie will both be playing their fourth game of the tournament.

Tri-City opened the tournament Friday morning with a 9-5 victory over Second District champion New Ulm Gold. Max Knutson and Sam Hentges combined for seven runs batted in while starting pitcher Karl Elfstrom gave up one run in six innings of work to pick up the victory. Knutson provided a pair of two-run singles and Hentges tripled home three runs. Elfstrom scattered six hits and walked five to go with two strikeouts.

The victory was the first in a state tournament for a Tri-City Red team since an 8-7 victory over the Rochester Patriots in the third round of the 2007 tournament.

In the second round, Tri-City took on Hopkins, the fourth-place team from the 10th District and a 5-4 victor over top-ranked Eastview in the first round. Red edged Hopkins 3-1 behind a strong performance from starting pitcher Max Knutson, who gave up one run on three hits in eight innings. He walked five and struck out eight before giving way to Matt Herringshaw, who pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the save.

Tri-City scored single runs in the third, seventh and eighth innings. In the third, Mitch Frederickson led off with a single, stole second, took third on a Sam Meyer base hit and scored on an error on the play.

Ben Mezzenga added to Tri-City's lead in the seventh when he singled, stole second and scored on Brett Becker's single. An inning later, Hentges added to his RBI total with a solo home run.

Hopkins tried for a rally in the ninth against Herringshaw when Matt Sinderson led off with a double. Herringshaw shut down the threat by inducing a pair of groundouts to the right side sandwiched around a strikeout.

Minnesota American Legion Division I baseball state tournament First round Game 1 - Tri-City Red 9, New Ulm Gold 5 Game 2 - Hopkins 5, Eastview 4 Game 3 - Winona 5, Fergus Falls 4, 10 innings Game 4 - Burnsville 6, Eden Prairie 0 Game 5- Giant Valley 4, Waite Park 1 Game 6 - Lakeville North 7, Monticello 0 Game 7 - Edina 8, Grand Rapids 1 Game 8 - Alexandria 4, Chaska 2

Second round Game 9 - New Ulm Gold 8, Eastview 5 (Eastview eliminated) Game 10 - Tri-City Red 3, Hopkins 1 Game 11 - Eden Prairie 17, Fergus Falls 3, 7 innings (Fergus Falls eliminated) Game 12 - Burnsville 6, Winona 2 Game 13 - Waite Park 12, Monticell0 2, 8 innings (Monticello eliminated) Game 14 - Lakeville North 12, Giant Valley 2, 7 innings Game 15 - Grand Rapids 7, Chaska 5 (Chaska eliminated) Game 16 - Edina 2, Alexandria 1

Third round Game 17 - New Ulm Gold 7, Giant Valley 1 (Giant Valley eliminated) Game 18 - Eden Prairie 6, Alexandria 5 (Alexandria eliminated) Game 19 - Waite Park 4, Hopkins 3 (Hopkins eliminated) Game 20 - Grand Rapids 10, Winona 9, 10 innings (Winona eliminated) Game 21 - Burnsville 2, Tri-City Red 0 Game 22 - Edina 11, Lakeville North 1, 7 innings

Fourth round, Sunday Game 23 - New Ulm Gold vs. Lakeville North at Chaska Athletic Park, 10 a.m. Game 24 - Eden Prairie vs. Tri-City Red at Chanhassen High School, 10 a.m. Game 25 - Waite Park vs. Grand Rapids at Chanhassen High School, 1 p.m. Game 26 - Burnsville vs. Edina at Chaska Athletic Park, 1 p.m.

Fifth round, Sunday Game 27 - Game 23 winner vs. Game 24 winner at Chaska Athletic Park, 4 p.m. Game 28 - Game 25 winner vs. Game 26 loser at Chaska Athletic Park, 7 p.m.

Loser's bracket final, Monday, 11 a.m. at Chaska Athletic Park Game 29 - Game 27 winner vs. Game 28 winner

Championship game, Monday, 2 p.m. at Chaska Athletic Park Game 30 - Game 26 winner vs. Game 29 winner

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