by Dennis Dalman
(Editor’s note: The Sartell Newsleader is grateful for reports from several people who were at the state championship games, including coach-manager Randy Beckstrom, Pete Johnson and Kaye Wenker. Their information added greatly to the following story.)
Steamrolling over their opponents, the Sartell Muskies clinched the Class C Amateur State Baseball Tournament Sunday after winning four games in a two-day tournament at Maple Lake’s Irish Stadium.
In the final game, a real stunner, the Muskies scored 10-0 over the Belle Plaine Tigers. First-baseman Jake Sweeter started the Muskies’ scoring streak with a solo home run in the second inning, repeating that feat in the fourth inning. He finished the game with three hits, three runs-batted-in. Andrew Deters contributed three hits, and Jace Otto and designated hitter Tony Schmitz each added two hits.
Veteran pitcher Dave Schlangen became the third Muskie to throw a shut-out at state competition, limiting Belle Plaine to just two hits.
The game ended at the seventh inning, according to the “10-run mercy rule.”
A noisy, raucous jubilation followed the game, with Muskies fans hurrying from the bleachers into right field where they whooped, hollered, hugged, high-fived and gabbed with Muskies players for nearly 90 minutes.
The state win was a grand finale for the Muskies’ season with 29 wins, two losses. It’s the second state title in the Muskies’ 35-year history.
Later, back in Sartell, the players gathered at manager-coach Randy Beckstrom’s house where they celebrated into the wee hours. At one point, the players poured a bottle of cold champagne over Beckstrom’s head.
“It was cold, but it felt pretty darned good,” Beckstrom said. “We had food, lots of pizzas and sat around an outdoor fire, talking about the high points of the season.”
And it was indeed a season of one high point after another. Beckstrom groped for words to express it.
“It was really a dream season from the start to the end,” he said. “We just played consistent baseball, the pitches were good, we hit the ball well. It was truly a team effort.”
Beckstrom then chuckled.
“Oh, yeah, and I can’t forget the ‘lucky’ green new uniforms we were wearing,” he added.
Beckstrom has coached the Muskies for 25 years and became the team’s manager in 2006. He recalled fondly the Muskies’ last state championship way back in 1992 when Beckstrom was the team’s key pitcher and outfielder. The number “21,” he figures, must be lucky. That championship was 21 years ago, Beckstrom was 21 years old at the time and his jersey number was (and is) 21.
It was good, he said, after all those years to win the state title again last weekend.
“We are happy to win for this community,” he said. “There were a lot of people from Sartell at the state tournament, and that was good to see.”
Beckstrom now has a big trophy sitting in his garage. Each player received a bat with all the Muskies’ names engraved on it, and each player also received a state-championship plaque.
Four Muskies have been named to the All-Tournament Team for their outstanding performances. They are pitcher David Deminsky (two wins, 13 innings, 0 earned runs, six hits, six walks, 18 strikeouts); first baseman Jake Sweeter (batting average .368, two homes runs, five runs-batted-in): outfield Dan O’Connell (batting average .353, four runs scored); and second baseman Andrew Deters, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player for his excellent defense (batting average .450 in the tournament with four runs-batted-in).
The two-day weekend tournament at Maple Lake wowed the crowds with many highlights. Here are some of them, as reported by Pete Johnson:
On Saturday, the Muskies defeated the Sobieski Skis 2-1. Deminsky won a pitcher’s duel, allowing only three hits and one unearned run while striking out 11 players. Brian Schellinger and Rob Voshell put the Muskies ahead right at the start, leading off the game with a single and runs-batted-in-double respectively. Tim Turns singled and scored an insurance run on a Sobieski error in the eighth inning.
On Sunday, the Muskies trounced the Fergus Falls Hurricanes 11-4. Third baseman Jace Otto’s error allowed Fergus Falls to take an early 1-0 lead, but Otto more than atoned with a fourth-inning grand-slam homer. Burns hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to break open the game. Second baseman Andrew Deters led the team with three hits. Burns and Adam Schellinger each had two hits. Pitcher Adam Wenker went eight innings for the win. He allowed six hits and one earned run.
The next game was against the Jordan Brewers, which the Muskies won 1-0. Minnesota amateur baseball uses a unique drafting system, which came into play in this game. Teams in the state tournament draft up to three pitchers from teams they defeated in the playoffs. In this game, the third of the weekend, the Muskies gave the ball to draftee Asa Patterson of the Mora Blue Devils, who proceeded to deliver one of the best pitching performances of the tournament.
With the help of excellent defense, Patterson shut-out a superb Jordan team, scattering seven hits and striking out 13 players. Otto provided heroics, saving a Jordan run in the eighth inning with a diving catch that turned into a double play. With the game still tied 0-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning, catcher Luke Sweeter led off with a single. He was advanced to second base on a sac bunt and moved to third base on a ground-out. With two outs, Otto delivered his third big play of the day, driving the game-winning hit over the Jordan left-fielder and setting off an on-field victory celebration by the team. Otto and right-fielder Dan O’Connell led the Muskies with two hits in the game.
The next game, also on Sunday, was the Muskies’ championship win – 10-0 over Belle Plaine. Remarkably, the Muskies outscored their tournament opponents by a combined 30-5, and Muskies’ pitchers combined to allow just three earned runs, good for a 0.63 earned-run average.
It is a triumph and a seasonal record the Muskies players and their fans will never forget.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.