CENTRAL PLAINS REGIONAL: Eden Prairie remains flawlessTwo things can happen when Minnesota American Legion baseball teams as familiar as Eden Prairie and Edina play each other. It will either be a pitching duel or a hitting parade.
By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press
Two things can happen when Minnesota American Legion baseball teams as familiar as Eden Prairie and Edina play each other.
It will either be a pitching duel or a hitting parade.
This time it was an offensive showdown at the Central Plains Regional Tournament.
"Eden Prairie is in our district, they are coached very well and they are a very good hitting team," Edina head coach Nick Kennedy said. "Every time we play each other it's a battle."
Minnesota state runner-up Eden Prairie used a five-run third inning to defeat Minnesota state champion Edina 8-6 in the quarterfinal game between two teams without a loss on Astoria Field at Southside Ballpark. The game began Saturday night and ended Sunday morning.
"I was proud with the way that our guys came out swinging," Eden Prairie head coach Scott Hackett said. "They came out with a good plan and jumped out on some pitches. They pull some good swings on it."
Eden Prairie broke the game open in the third inning when Michael Blauert, Cody Wetmore and Luke Lind all ripped RBI singles. The biggest hit in the inning was when University of Minnesota recruit Jordan Smith tattooed a two-RBI double to the right-field fence. Lind had three hits and three RBIs, while Smith had a pair of hits and two RBIs.
"We were really pumped up coming into the game, because they beat us in the (Minnesota) state tournament," Smith said. "We just had a lot of energy coming out today and I think that benefitted us."
After the five-run inning, Eden Prairie, the 2011 American Legion World Series champions and back-to-back Central Plains Regional champions, held a 6-2 lead. However, Edina (40-7) had more to say.
"We got some good swings today and just carried it through just enough for the win," Hackett said.
Despite the two-run fourth inning by the Hornets, Eden Prairie (33-11) answered the call whenever a clutch hit was needed. Lind tied the game at 1-1 in the second inning with a solo home run, clearing the scoreboard in right field.
"We were swinging pretty well," Smith said. "With the delay, I was a little worried about how we were going to come out, but the younger kids really surprised me today. We were focused and ready to go."
Edina put together its own threats in the eighth and ninth innings, but winning pitcher Corey Binger was able to work in and out of jams through eight innings. He allowed five runs and struck out four. Dan Loats closed out the game for Eden Prairie, allowing one run and picked off Edina's Nick Omodt on a double move from third to first to end the game.
"Corey did a great job," Hackett said. "He was able to mix his pitches up and throw pitches for strikes at times. He had a couple of jams and competed.
"Dan made it interesting again and he closed it out. I'm proud of both of them. They were both sophomore this past year, so for them come out on this stage and pitch well is good to see."
Matt Hopfner, Edina's starting pitcher, threw a complete game and allowed eight runs. Mark Handberg supplied three hits, a RBI and scored two runs. Omodt added two hits, a RBI and scored two runs.
"Matt has been a horse for us all year," Kennedy said. "These guys have seen him a bunch of times and we've seen their guys as well."
Eden Prairie, which is 8-0 at Southside Ballpark in the past two years, faces the host Dickinson Roughriders at 6 p.m. today. The Roughriders are 17-28 and, just over a week ago, lost out of the North Dakota Class A state tournament in three games. Edina plays Omaha PI Midwest at 3 p.m. in an elimination game.
It's an elimination game for the Roughriders but merely a bridge to Monday's championship round for Eden Prairie, which is guaranteed a shot at the region title.
"You can't look past anyone at this stage," Hackett said. "They've beaten a couple of good teams here and they're playing with confidence. There's four teams left in this regional for a reason."
EP 015 010 010 - 8 9 1
Edina 110 200 011 - 6 11 0
Corey Binger, Dan Loats (9) and Danny Halloran. Matt Hopfner and Nick Denn. W-Binger. L-Hopfner. HR-EP, Luke Lind.
Highlights: EP, Lind 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI; Jordan Smith 2-for-4, 2 RBI; Brett Guba 2-for-3, RBI, run; Cody Wetmore 1-for-5, RBI, 2 run; Michael Blauert 2-for-5, RBI, run. Edina, Nick Omodt 2-for-4, RBI, run; Mark Handberg 3-for-4, RBI, 2 runs; Will Vanderbilt 1-for-3, RBI; Mitch Larson 1-for-4; Stephen Kalina RBI; Nick Leer 1-for-4; Dan Baer 1-for-4, run; Nick Denn 1-for-4, run.
Records: EP 33-11, Edina 40-7