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Miesville Mudhens advance to class B state tournament

Steve Maher was nearly untouchable in Miesville's victory at home over the Hawks. Maher allowed just one run on three hits and two walks, and struck out nine batters. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
#98 Joe Werner catches a long flyball during the Mudhens' victory over the Hastings Hawks in Miesville. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

The Miesville Mudhens swept the Hastings Hawks 2-0 this past weekend to advance to the Minnesota Baseball Association's Class B State Tournament and now look to defend last year's state title. The Mudhens beat the Hawks 11-1 on Aug. 4 in Miesville and then took the series with a 12-3 win Aug. 6 at Veterans Park in Hastings.

Mudhens' manager Chris Olean said that making the tournament is always an accomplishment.

"You play as hard as you do all year to get the number one seed to play an opponent you think you have a good chance against and we took care of business," he said. "Getting back to state is awesome. That's always been the goal for this team with the older guys. They get it, they want to get back there, play against the best teams around and see what they can do."

Game one in Miesville was a dominant performance by the Mudhens behind a stellar outing by pitcher Steve Maher. Maher really kept the Hawks guessing and gave up just one earned run on three hits and two walks in a complete-game win. He struck out nine batters in the seven innings before a walk-off solo home run by Charles Bruchu in the bottom of the seventh put the 10-run rule into effect. Before the walk-off, the Mudhens had done all of their damage in just two innings (four runs in the first and six in the fifth), helped along by a few Hastings errors. Bruchu and Deryk Marks each had two hits while Bruchu led with four RBI.

The second game in Hastings started opposite of how it had in game one. The Hawks scored three runs in the first on a two-RBI double by Jake Dale and an RBI groundout by Spencer Diedrich. Hastings led 3-1 and then 3-2 after the second inning. However, Miesville was able to break open the game win a six-run fourth inning thanks to RBI hits by Bruchu, Matt Van Der Bosch, Marks and Spencer Merle. Hastings failed to keep up the offense it generated in the first inning. Four more runs in the eighth on a hit, two walks and an error gave the Mudhens a 12-3 victory.

Both teams used several pitchers in Sunday's game. Andrew Werner started for Miesville and threw two innings, gave up three runs on four hits and a hit batsman before being relieved by Shannon Ahern. Ahern finished the game with seven strong innings, gave up no runs on seven hits with five strikeouts to earn the win.

Bruchu, Merle and Nate Hammes all had three hits for Miesville. Bruchu led the way with three RBI, while Merle had two and Van Der Bosch and Marks each had one.

The Mudhens have now won 21 games in a row, including an exhibition at CHS Field (home of the St. Paul Saints) against Dundas 5-3 on Aug. 7. During that time, very few of their games have been close and it has been rare that they have been truly tested. However, that lack of competition does not worry Olean.

"We will see some good competition before we go," Olean said. "We're going to play Dundas tomorrow in an exhibition at CHS and we have St. Louis Park coming down next week, who's going to be one of the better teams we've seen all year. So we'll have some competition before we go, plus the veteran factor is a huge deal. All these guys have been in big games. We'll be fine, the first round of state is probably the scary part, just because it's single elimination and if you have a bad day that's it."

After some interesting circumstances in which some teams qualified for last year's class B state tournament, the MBA realigned class B before this season. Last season eight sections were represented of varying sizes, but they were consolidated into four sections for the 2017 season. As a result, whereas last year each section sent two teams to state, this year four teams per section move on. Miesville, Dundas, Northfield and Elko all advanced to this year's state tournament.

Miesville will play the first round of the state tournament, which is single elimination, the weekend of Aug. 18 (either Friday, Saturday or Sunday). If they win that game they then advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament and would play the next two weekends. This year's state tournament locations are Green Isle, Hamburg and Norwood Young America, which are west-southwest of the Twin Cities.

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a sports reporter and general assignment reporter at the Hastings Star Gazette. He is a journalism graduate of Drake University.

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