(article from NYA Times)
The Young America Cardinals State Tournament run came to a very familiar end on Saturday, at the hands of the Avon Lakers and their starting pitcher, Kyle Collins. Two years ago, YA made it to State and played the Hampton Cardinals. They were a slightly unknown team, mostly made of some young players and were riding the arm of a former class AA minor league pitcher. In that case, it was Keith Myers, a draftee from Cannon Falls, who pitched AA ball for the Dodgers. This year, they met their maker in Collins, who pitched AA ball for the Cleveland Indians and was a top pitcher at San Diego State. Avon themselves hadn’t made State since 2004 and looked basically like a new crop of young, athletic kids.
Nik Franck took the mound for YA, who himself has a 4-1 State Tournament record including a State Tournament Championship when drafted in 2007 by Plato, and looked to be a worthy matchup. However, Collins showed his class AA stuff as he dominated the Cardinal offense, striking out eight batters in the first five innings, allowing only two hits. Franck, is more of a pitch to contact guy who needs a big corner from the ump and solid defense behind him to put up a lot of zeros on the board. Avon was ready for the task as they knocked Franck out of the game early in the sixth inning, with nine hits, four of them going for extra bases. At times it seemed Franck had the Avon sticks flustered and out of answers with his barrage of junk pitching. Other times they were all over him like flies on a rib roast, connecting hard on anything coming straight and over the plate.
In the sixth, Adam Kostecka relieved Franck, already in a three run hole. This was Kostecka’s first state appearance, so when he entered a bit shaky and walked the first three batters, it was something that wasn’t out of the ordinary for that situation, no matter the pitcher. Kostecka got out of a bases loaded jam later in the sixth using a big strikeout and infield popup to get his defense off the field. However, Avon put two more runs across prior to those outs, leaving that inning with a five run lead.
Avon would add another run in the seventh, and eventually the Cardinals would start a rally in the eighth. Collins finally hit the wall and needed relief after walking three of the fist four batters in the eighth. His replacement was a southpaw draftee from Freeport. With the bases loaded, Chet Maschke kept the rally in tact with an infield single, finally giving YA a run on the board. Shortly after, Brandon Stender connected with a RBI single. But on that play, Maschke got a little too aggressive with his base running and which got Aaron Cook tagged out in a messy situation, ending that threat. In the ninth, the Freeport lefty easily dispatched the Cardinals in order, striking out all three batters he faced.
Many fans look back at the region seeding game last Saturday against Winsted, thinking if they won that game and maybe getting a slightly weaker team, possibly the outcome would be different. But it is what it is and the Cardinals will be watching a little early than they wanted, but still played much later into the year than many other teams in the MN.
As for the rest of they Crow teams in State, they went two for three on the weekend, with Waconia defeating Stark and Winsted beating Jackson. Both will move on to play next weekend, along with Green Isle who received a first round bye.
The Cardinals again had a huge outpouring of support not only at State, but all year long. YA finished with their best regular season record (23-11 overall, 15-6 in the Crow) since 2007 (24-9 overall, 12-3 in the Crow) and only lost to one team this year with a record lower than their own.
A couple of veterans have said their goodbyes to the club already, as Bobby Kraemer and Franck put a combined thirty four years of play to rest.
But, some very encouraging signs for next year came this season, with outstanding growth seen in a few of the younger players on the team. Wes Willemsen and Adam Ernst both made it hard for the coach to take either one of them out of the lineup, as they mainly platooned at second base all year, flexing their skills with both the bat and the glove. Keyth Hendricks, once seen as a fairly competent backup for regular catcher Brandon Stender, played his way into the regular starting job, catching all the big games for YA down the stretch. Logan Harms, while not seeing a lot of playing time this year, showed a great deal of maturity on the bench and looks like someone the Cardinals can rely on in the future. Tanner Kohls will get to hone his abilities another year at Mesabi College in Ely, and will definitely be in the hunt for the centerfield job vacated by Kraemer.
The Cardinals would like to send another thanks to everyone who supported their club this summer and especially during the Region 7C tournament. YA’s accomplishments on the field are so much sweeter because they have such great fans to share those moments with.