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CENTRAL PLAINS REGIONAL: Edina builds big lead, holds on to beat Papillion

Edina (Minn.) had to win its first game of the Central Plains Regional American Legion baseball tournament on a ninth-inning RBI single.

So it felt good giving itself a huge cushion in the early innings of a second-round game against Papillion (Neb.) Pinnacle Bank -- even if it eventually had to work for a victory.

Edina scored seven runs in the first two innings, got behind starting pitcher Mitch Larson and held off a late Papillion rally for an 11-6 victory on Friday night on Astoria Field at Southside Ballpark.

"I think we were squeezing it a little bit in the first game," first baseman Matt Hopfner said of Edina's 3-2 win over West Fargo on Thursday. "(We were) a little nervous, but we busted it open right away so that helped a lot."

Hopfner was 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. He was one of three Edina players who had multiple-RBI games and gave Edina a 5-0 lead in the second inning with a two-run double.

Stephen Kalina was 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs and Nick Denn was 1-for-3 with two RBI and a run.

Papillion couldn't find a groove early, whether it was in the field or on the mound.

Starter Cole Gruber was credited with just two earned runs of the six Edina scored while he was in the game. In all, Edina had six earned runs.

Along with Edina's solid placement hitting, walks, errors and hit batters put Papillion in a hole.

"You can't walk that many people or get behind that many people," Papillion head coach Jim Thomas said. "This time of the year, you've got to hit your spots or they're going to hurt you bad."

Edina led 9-0 before Papillion was able to scrape together some hits.

Eventually, Papillion was able to get things put together.

Gruber and Jake Placzek each drove in a pair of runs.

After Larson walked in a run and allowed another to score on a hit by pitch, Gruber's two-run double to left-center field cut Edina's lead to 10-5.

Reliever Geoff Fisher walked Josh Kramer, J.J. Benes came up with the bases loaded and the chance to make it a one-run game. Benes, who was 3-for-5, struck out and Landen Weisbeck popped out to end the threat.

"In a nine-inning game, it changes everything," Edina head coach Nick Kennedy said. "We've learned the hard way in the past that you've got to battle through nine innings. Still, (Papillion is) a very good hitting team, so you can never let up on them."

Papillion left 15 runners on base and left the bases loaded in the first, sixth and eighth innings.

"He (Larson) worked out of some jams because we had a whole bunch of people left on," Thomas said. "I give him a lot of credit for keeping us from getting away early. I don't know what bases they were on, but he wiggled out of some jams."

Edina put itself into a quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Eden Prairie and Omaha (Neb.) PI Midwest.

"That should be the hardest round," Hopfner said. "If we can get past it, our chances are good."

Papillion, meanwhile, faces elimination against a team that provided the biggest surprise of the tournament Friday -- the hometown Dickinson Roughriders, who upset Iowa state champion West Des Moines 3-1. They play at 1 p.m. Saturday.

"We expect a tussle," Thomas said. "It should be a good ballgame."

Papillion 000 001 041 -- 6 11 2

Edina 250 021 01x -- 11 10 1

Cole Gruber, Aaron O'Dowd (2), Cole Baker (5), Taylor Bruch (6), Geoffrey Birkemeier (7), Justin Gassert (8). Mitch Larson, Geoff Fisher (8) and Michael Grove. W-Larson. L-Gruber. HR-None.

Highlights: P, Jake Placzek 1-for-4, 2 RBI, R; Matt Gay 2-for-4, 2 RBI; Cole Gruber 1-for-5, 2 RBI; J.J. Benes 3-for-5, R; Landen Weisbeck 1-for-5, R; Ryan Leif 1-for-4; Matt Safranek 1-for-3, 2 R; Geoffrey Birkemeier 1-for-1, R. E, Nick Omodt 0-for-4, RBI, 2 R; Nick Leer 0-for-4, RBI; Matt Hopfner 2-for-3, 3 RBI, 3 R; Nick Denn 1-for-3, 2 RBI; R; Dan Baer 3-for-3, R; Mark Handberg 1-for-5, R; Stephen Kalina 2-for-3; 2 RBI, 2 R; Will Vanderbilt 1-for-5, 2 R; Larson 7.1 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 K, 6 BB, 1 HBP.

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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