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Perham Babe Ruth Finishes third at State

Front Row L-R: Andy Hanson, Dylan Perrine, Mason Malikowski, Chandler Rach, Alex Tostenson, Chase Curtis, Cole Carignan. Back Row: Coach Tyler Soderstrom, Jesse Bucholz, Jordan McCollum, Nathan Currier, Dylan Kruzel, Levi Schwartz, Bobby Lusti, Patrick Murphy, Coach Jordan Hein. Submitted photo.

The Perham 14-15 Year Old Babe Ruth team placed third at the state tournament this past weekend in Fergus Falls, going 4-2 on the weekend.

Perham opened up tournament play on Thursday evening against Sauk Centre, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on one hit, one walk, and a Perham error. Perham cut the lead in half in the second inning and tied the game at two when Levi Schwartz, a draftee from Menahga and the starting pitcher for Perham, helped his own cause by blasting a solo homerun.

Schwartz battled control issues in the fourth inning and Sauk Centre capitalized to the tune of three runs. Single runs by Sauk Centre and Perham in the fifth found Perham trailing 6-3 heading into the seventh and final inning.

Dylan Perrine led the seventh inning off with a double and advanced to third on a groundout. A walk and two Sauk Centre errors brought in two runs and put runners at second and third with Perham trailing by one. Mason Malikowski then proceeded to drive a two-strike single into left field to tie the game at six.

With one out and the winning run at third base Nathan Currier stepped to the plate looking to send Perham on in the winner's bracket. Currier briefly looked like the hero, roping a pitch hard down the third baseline, but an outstretched Sauk Centre third baseman snagged the liner in the air and doubled Perham off at third base to send the game into extra innings.

Two hits and one Perham error in the eighth allowed Sauk Centre to score two runs and Perham was again forced to try battling back. In the bottom half of the inning Dylan Kruzel cut the lead to one by sending a two out pitch to the fence that scored Alex Tostenson from second, but a groundout ended the game and sent Perham to the loser's bracket with a 7-8 defeat.

Perham's first opponent in the loser's bracket was Fosston and for three innings it looked to be another close game, with Perham holding a slim 1-0 lead. But four Fosston errors and three Perham hits accounted for a six-run fourth inning and gave Perham a comfortable 7-0 lead. Perham went on to win the game 12-3.

Jordan McCollum, a draftee from Park Rapids, started on the mound and pitched three scoreless innings before being pulled to conserve his innings for later in the tournament. Jesse Bucholz followed up a 2-3 day in Perham's opening round game with a 3-4 day against Fosston that included two doubles.

The win set Perham up for an elimination game with fellow Timberline League team Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale scheduled for Friday night. The two teams played four times previously during the season with three of the games being decided by one run. Both teams were ready to go Friday night when strong storms moving through the area forced the game to be rescheduled for early Saturday.

When the game finally got going Saturday morning Bertha struck first with a two run first inning. Nathan Currier tied the game in the second inning with a clutch two-out, two-run single and Perham went ahead for good when the two Dylan's, Perrine and Kruzel, led off the third inning with back-to-back hits and eventually came around to score.

Kruzel took the mound for Perham and pitched all seven innings, allowing two runs while striking out nine Bertha batters. Kruzel more or less beat Bertha single-handedly, also accounting for half of Perham's hits in the game going 2-3 with a double, triple, and two runs scored.

Perham had a two hour break before they played their second game of the day against Hawley, a team that had caused some drama earlier in the tournament when Cold Spring challenged a loss to Hawley and refused to play their second game of the tournament claiming that one of Hawley's players, Chad Klute, was listed on the team roster as a coach and had been playing Legion baseball all summer rather than being rostered with the Hawley Babe Ruth team. Although true, Hawley had received a waiver from the state allowing Klute, who was legal Babe Ruth age, to play in the tournament and Hawley continued to advance while Cold Spring was eliminated.

Perham took a two run lead in the first inning thanks to two Hawley walks and singles by Kruzel and Bucholz. Perham added a run to their lead in the third inning when Andy Hanson laid down a suicide squeeze to score Alex Tostenson from third base.

A single run in the third inning was all Hawley could muster against Perham's starter Bobby Lusti, a draftee from Menahga, who was lights-out until a stressful seventh inning.

Perham led 3-1 going into the seventh, but a single and a couple walks found Hawley threatening to take the lead with the bases loaded, two outs, and their best hitter and alleged ringer, Chad Klute, stepping to the plate. Klute had sent the first fastball he saw from Lusti over the left fielder's head for a double in the first inning, but that didn't stop Lusti from challenging the Hawley star with a heavy dose of heat. With the crowd on their feet and a 1-2 count, Lusti put everything he had into a high fastball that blew by Klute's big swing, sending the crowd into an uproar and sending Klute into equipment chucking mode on his walk back to the dugout.

The strikeout was Lusti's fourteenth of the game. The Menahga ace pitched all seven innings of the game and allowed just four hits and one run.

The intense win had Perham on an emotional high heading into their third game of the day, a Saturday nightcap against Ottertail Central. Jordan McCollum took the hill for his second start of the tournament and had OTC batters baffled, striking out eleven batters in his four no-hit innings of work and allowing just one OTC hitter to put a ball in fair territory.

A five run fourth inning put Perham comfortably ahead and McCollum was again pulled, much to the relief of OTC hitters, in order to conserve his innings.

Kruzel, Currier, and Chase Curtis each had multi hit games at the plate for Perham.

After spending 12 hours at the ballpark Saturday, Perham showed up for an early game Sunday against Albany and the weariness from a long weekend of baseball showed in Perham's sloppy play as errors and walks allowed Albany to take a six run lead after just two innings. Perham didn't have enough gas left in the tank to mount a comeback and went on to lose 9-1.

Levi Schwartz was the only Perham batter with multiple hits, going 2-3 on the day.

Dylan Kruzel, who batted .419 on the season, swung a hot bat all tournament collecting 8 hits, including 3 doubles and 2 triples, 5 runs scored and 5 RBIs. Kruzel also ended the year with one of the lowest ERAs on the team (2.85). Chandler Rach led the team in wins with a 5-0 record as well as strikeouts (43), innings pitched (32.67) and games pitched (10).

Jesse Bucholz and Mason Malikowski each batted .428 during the tournament (6-14). Dylan Perrine went 7-21 in the tournament and ended the year with the highest batting average (.438) and on-base percentage (.552) on the team.

Jordan McCollum was the tournament leader on the mound, striking out 14 in eight and a third innings of work while allowing just three hits and one earned run en route to earning two wins. McCollum also batted .428 in the tournament (3-7).

Perham ends their season with a 24-9 record, a Timberline League Championship, District II Championship, and third place finish at the State Tournament.