ATWATER — With playoffs underway in Division II American Legion baseball, teams are preparing for a different type of sub-state tournament.
Unlike other sub-state divisions, the final four teams in the sub-district compete in a best-of-three tournament beginning Tuesday. Tri-Town takes on Sacred Heart/MACCRAY and Litchfield plays Pierz.
Following Tuesday’s games, the teams play Thursday. If the loser of Game 1 wins Game 2, a third and final game will be played later Thursday.
Following the sub-state semifinals, the winners will then battle in another best-of-three series starting Saturday and Sunday.
For Tri-Town, coached by David Kingery, their regular season was shortened due to the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School baseball team playing in the state tournament in St. Cloud. Still, with the majority of the varsity baseball team on his lineup, and currently holding a 7-2 record, Kingery believes his team is prepared.
“We like our chances. But Sacred Heart is obviously a really good team so it’s going to be a good matchup (Tuesday) and Thursday,” Kingery said. “I’ve seen the whole team and I’ve coached them for a couple years now so I kind of know everybody there so I don’t think it impacted us a lot, other than us losing maybe three or four regular-season games before playoffs.”
Kingery described the regular season in one word: Short.
“We’ve got nine games, including playoffs, so it’s been very short in terms of me as the coach,” he said. “The players, they just really just went straight in from high school playoffs and then jumped right into the legion regular season after a week off, then hopping into the regular season right away, so it’s been a very short and quick season.”
Despite his team having experience in postseason baseball, Kingery is looking forward to a solid outing from Sacred Heart/MACCRAY.
“They’re going to be a very good team so the thing that I’m trying to get into my guys is to not overlook anybody,” he said. “Even if you were in the state tournament and maybe somebody else wasn’t in high school, it’s a totally different game in the summer.
“We’ve definitely overlooked some people in the past and that kind gets you down into a rut sometimes,” he added. “With baseball you’re never really sure how a certain pitcher is going to do or how a certain lineup is going to do so you can never overlook any opponent.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought game. We’re going to try and stick it to them right away and try and come out with a win (on Tuesday).”
In the other dugout, Sacred Heart/MACCRAY has not played in the final four of the sub-state tournament in approximately 16 years.
With the state tournament being hosted by Sacred Heart/MACCRAY, the team gets an automatic bid into the state tournament.
“(We’re) feeling good about making it this far and knowing that we’re hosting state this year, meaning we have an automatic bid. But that wasn’t our goal,” head coach Steve Agre said. “Our goal from day one has been to try and earn our way in. And it's a tough start and it’s going to be even tougher and that’s the way it should be, come this time of the year.”
Sacred Heart/MACCRAY started the season with a 1-4 record, but is coming into its matchup against Tri-Town with a 10-5 overall record.
“We just kind of hit a reset button and just basically if it’s meant to be it’s going to happen,” Agre said. “Just keep going out, working hard and playing the best you can and have fun. Keep the attitudes on a good positive note and be supportive of your teammates and let’s just play ball the way we know how to play.
“We know we got a tough task in front of us this week in Atwater but anything can happen in baseball.”
The first pitch for Tri-Town and Sacred Heart/MACCRAY is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kingery Field in Atwater. The teams play at 6 p.m. Thursday at Sacred Heart.