SACRED HEART -- The Sacred Heart/MACCRAY Scarlets clinched a spot in this year's Division II Legion Baseball State Tournament two years ago. That's because the state board approved Sacred Heart to host the tourney.
Some agree with the host site automatically getting a berth in state and others, like Scarlets coach Steve Agre, are "up in the air" with the notion. Four years ago the Scarlets were in the same boat, they didn't win the district title, but they still qualified for hosting the state tournament.
"In 2008 we lost 3-2 in extras in our first game and then lost 7-4 in our other game," said Agre. "We fared well. I've seen on some occasions where the host team (that didn't win its district) got 10-run ruled in both games."
"It used to be that (the state board) would have to fish for somebody to host the tournament, but now you have to wait three to four years."
The host rule is in place since there are only seven districts for D-II play. Division I has 10 districts and Agre said there is talk that District 10 (Twin Cities metro area) could field some D-II teams starting next year. In 2006 Willmar hosted the D-II state tourney, but since Willmar is a D-I program in District 7, the top two D-II teams from District 7 qualified for state that year.
"It's nice to be playing (even though we didn't win a district title) because we like to have that local flavor," said Agre. "We put a lot on the line."
Agre said that between 100 and 120 people will be volunteering in some aspect during the tournament that starts today and runs through Sunday. All of the teams will be staying at Prairie's Edge Casino Resort in Granite Falls -- 14 miles from the Sacred Heart ballpark -- and will hit at Richter Field in Granite when not playing.
"The host team is responsible for housing and feeding all of the teams," added Agre. "It's nice to have everything in one spot."
Early favorites to contend for the state title have to be two-time defending champion Eden Valley-Watkins (11-5), Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (29-4) and Ely (27-7). The Scarlets face DGF -- which have three pitchers that have combined to compile a 23-3 record and an ERA of 2.21 with 197 strikeouts in 157.1 innings of work -- tonight at 7 p.m.
Ryan Fransen's batting average of .440 sparks an offense for SH/MACCRAY that has outscored its opponents 66-57. Mitch Treml sports an average of .300 while Caleb Melin is hitting .670 and Colin Thompson .330 in limited action for the Scarlets.
The forecast for today is calling for mostly sunny skies for most of the day and the temperature peaking in the mid-to-high 80s before thunderstorms roll into Sacred Heart later in the evening. The early games Saturday might see some rain showers, but after that the sun should dominate the skies for the remainder of the tournament, which concludes on Sunday.
1. EDEN VALLEY-WATKINS (11-5, DISTRICT 7 CHAMPION) VS. PLATO (14-4, DISTRICT 3 CHAMPION), 9:30 A.M.
2. LUVERNE (15-6, DISTRICT 2 CHAMPION) VS. STEWARTVILLE (20-3, DISTRICT 1 CHAMPION), NOON
3. ELY (27-7, DISTRICT 8 CHAMPION) VS. PAYNESVILLE (12-4, DISTRICT 6 CHAMPION), 4 P.M.
4. SACRED HEART/MACCRAY (6-6, HOST TEAM) VS. DILWORTH-GLYNDON-FELTON (29-4, DISTRICT 9 CHAMPION), 7 P.M.
5. LOSER 1 VS. LOSER 2, 9 A.M.
6. LOSER 3 VS. LOSER 4, 11:30 A.M.
7. CONSOLATION CHAMPIONSHIP: WINNER 5 VS. WINNER 6, 2 P.M.
8. WINNER 1 VS. WINNER 2, 5 P.M.
9. WINNER 3 VS. WINNER 4, 7:30 P.M.
10. LOSER 8 VS. LOSER 9, 11:30 A.M.
11. WINNER 8 VS. WINNER 9, 2 P.M.