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Senior Baseball: Silver Pirates win marathon game at State Tournament

Jon Kotaska, pictured here pitching for the Perham Pirates in 2007, threw a 23-inning complete game last weekend for the Silver Pirates at the MSMABA State Tournament, striking out 27 batters.

In the State Senior Men's Amateur Baseball Tournament, held each year in the Jordan, Belle Plaine area, there are four classes: AA, A, B, and C. Teams are bracketed into AA and A with the winners of the opening round game going into eight team, brackets of AA and the losers of the opening round game going into eight team, brackets of A. The same is true of the B and C part of the tournament. This year, the Perham Silver Pirates are competing in the AA and A portion of the tournament.

In Saturday's opening round, the Silver Pirates lost a 6-5 nail biter to Eden Prairie.

The game started with Perham lead off hitter, Tony Stoll, driving a ball to right center for a potential, double but the oppositions center fielder, made a neat throw to second base and caught Stoll sliding in for the first out. Jim Nelson did score later in the inning to give Perham a 1-0 lead.

Eden Prairie scored two in the second for a brief lead, but Perham came back with two more runs in the third and led 3-2 until Eden Prairie had their shot at the plate in the bottom of the inning. Eden Prairie scored one to tie it in the third and two more in the fourth to take a 5-3 lead into the seventh.

Jon Kotaska and Ray Sailer both singled to start the Pirate seventh. Gary Lackey followed up with an RBI single and Greg Schmid singled to plate Sailer to tie the game at 5-5.

The Pirates out their first round opponents, 12-8, but Eden Prairie put together a double, a walk and single in the bottom of the seventh to pick up a 6-5 victory.

Greg Schmid threw five innings of six hit, ball before handing it over to Gary Lackey who threw the last two frames. Lackey walked two, struck out two and gave up the lone run in the seventh.

Steve Sheets continued his hot fielding for the team with a nice running catch in center and added a triple to his efforts to lead off the fourth. Stoll and Kotaska and Dan Miller each had a pair of hits to lead the Silver Pirates in that area and all but one Pirate hit safely in the contest!

Perham wins marathon

The loss sent the Silver Pirates into Class A competition on Sunday to face Northwest League foe Menahga-Sebeka, in the quarterfinals.

The game was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in Veseli, which would have gotten the Perham players home between 12:30-1:00 a.m. Monday morning (if they were lucky)! Little did the participants realize they would still be on the diamond after midnight in a marathon game!

Menahga-Sebeka took the initial lead in the top of the third inning with a pair of runs.

Jim Nelson got things started for Perham in the fourth with a single and a stolen base. Gary Lackey singled home Nelson, but was stranded on third to end the inning. In the sixth, Jason McClellan led off with a single and promptly stole second before Kotaska delivered an RBI double to tie the game, 2-2.

Little did anyone know at the time, that the game would remain 2-2 for the next 16 innings. Both teams had numerous opportunities to score between the sixth and 23rd inning, but good play by both teams kept the game going.

Perham actually came closer to winning on more occasions than the Relics, but Sheets made the 'catch of the decade' to keep Menahga-Sebeka from walking away with the win in the top of the 10th. With two out and a man on first, the Relics shortstop drove a shot to deep center field. Sheets turned and sprinted for the fence (if you've seen Willie Mays famous "back to the infield catch", you can picture Sheets heading for the fence) and finally laid out, towards the fence for a spectacular diving catch to end the inning.

Fast forward to the top of the 23rd inning, John Lilliquist , the pitcher and second baseman for the Relics, led off the with a home run to right center which put the Relics ahead 3-2 after 16 scoreless innings.

Down a run and with two outs in the bottom of the 23rd, Sheets singled to get the Pirates going. Greg Schmid followed with a single to put runners on first and second. Larry Mollins doubled down the left field line to chase Sheets home with the tieing run.

McClellan came to bat with Schmid on third and two out. With a count of 2-2 on McClellan, the Relics pitcher was set to throw and for some reason, stepped back off the mound - McClellan yelled "balk" and he was right on the money! Schmid trotted home with the game-winning run.

The amazing story about this game is the pitching. Menahga-Sebeka used three pitchers, but the Silver Pirates used just one. Kotaska pitched the entire 23 innings and he was just as strong in the 23rd as he was in the first!

"As long as they were unable to get any thing going why not stay on the hill," Kotaska said.

He finished the night with an amazing 27 strikeouts while scattering 15 hits and walking six batters. Perham picked up 12 free passes in addition to their 12 hits.

Silver Pirate catcher Nelson also deserves some solid credit as he was behind the plate all 23 innings and threw out four runners attempting to steal second!

Perham will now take on St. Louis Park at 5 p.m. Saturday in Union Hill. Should they win, they will play for a State title on Sunday. A loss and they would play for third Sunday afternoon.

Kotaska sets a pair of State records

Jon Kotaska's performance at the Minnesota Senior Men's Amateur Baseball State Tournament last weekend bested a pair of state records.

Kotaska pitched a 23-inning complete game for Perham against Menahga-Sebeka where he struck out 27 batters in a 4-3 win.

The most strikeouts in a Minnesota Amateur Baseball Association State Tournament game is 21. Longest state tournament game was 20 innings.

In Major League history, only four pitchers in have pitched more innings in a single game (2 in the AL; 2 in the NL) not being done since 1920.