Cornbelt League boasts 2 teams in winner's bracket
WILLMAR -- Only one time has the Class C championship featured teams from the same league since the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament went back to a three-class format in 1987. It could happen again this year as Raymond and Sacred Heart from the Cornbelt South League are still alive heading into the final weekend of play.
"The baseball gods are shining down on us for having two teams this far," said Mike Nagel, the president of the Cornbelt South. "And to have two teams unbeaten is pretty amazing."
Sacred Heart (29-13) meets the Moorhead Brewers (30-7) at 6 p.m. today in Bird Island in the first of two winner's bracket semifinal games. Raymond (28-5) and Midway (29-6) play the late semifinal game at 8:30 p.m. in Willmar.
Wins from Sacred Heart and Raymond would then pit the Cornbelt South rivals in the winner's bracket final Saturday at 6 p.m. in Bird Island. The winner would then clinch a spot in Monday's final, while the loser would have to win another game to reach the championship on Labor Day.
There's been nine area teams -- Granite Falls being the last in 2002 in Class C -- that have won a state title since the first state tournament was held in 1924.
"Either one of these teams, if the chips fall right, could have a championship," said Nagel referring to Raymond and Sacred Heart.
A Minnesota Baseball Association by-law that went into effect two years states that the winner and runner-up of the Class C tourney will be moved up to Class B for the following two years. Nagel, however, doesn't think the state board will bump Raymond and Sacred Heart up a class if the two should reach the championship game.
"I think they have a pretty good chance of staying," said Nagel. "When you look at (Raymond and Sacred Heart), they don't have a lot of four-year college players and the towns are pretty small. Plus travel would also be an issue as they would probably play against teams from Mankato and Rochester.
"I'm extremely happy for these two programs and the kids that are playing (for them) are local and that's what town ball is all about."