Amateur Baseball: Willmar Rails look to clinch last 4C spot
Willmar, Paynesville, Regal, Marshall all vying for region's third state berth
WILLMAR -- After one week of the 2021 4C Regional Tournament, four teams remain in the hunt with one spot to fill for the Class C state amateur baseball tournament.
That final spot, and the region state seeding, will be decided this weekend at Legion Field in Marshall.
The Willmar Rails , Paynesville Pirates , Regal Eagles and Marshal A’s will be looking to win back-to-back games on Saturday to officially place its name onto the upcoming state tournament bracket. The winner of that quartet will join the Bird Island Bullfrogs and the Milroy Yankees when the Class C state tournament begins Aug. 20-22 at Waconia, Chaska and Hamburg.
After ending the first round with a 1-1 split, losing Saturday but winning Sunday, Willmar Rails’ coach Dustin Overcash discussed how his team is feeling leading into its first must-win game on Saturday against Paynesville, a team the Rails have defeated earlier this season, 10-0 on June 9.
“Everybody is excited, but there are going to be nerves,” he said. “I’m sure there is going to be a lot of nerves heading into Saturday morning. But there’s also a lot of excitement.”
The Rails lost its first game of the 4C Region tournament 5-2 against Regal on Aug. 7. However, with the tournament being double-elimination, the Rails bounced back the next day with a 11-4 victory over Atwater.
Should Willmar win Game 1 Saturday, the Rails split against Marshall during the regular season and could have a potential rematch against Regal to get to the state tournament in Game 2.
Overcash says the team is focusing primarily on its defensive performance rather than its batting.
“Plain and simple, we got to just make sure that we play the best defense that we can. You can’t lose a game when you don’t give up any runs,” he said. “We just have to play good defensively and then hopefully we can scratch together a couple runs and take care of business.”
Overcash says the team is solely focused on defense after committing key mistakes in its loss last Friday.
“As long as we play good defense, those errors don’t happen and we should be able to have a good game against both of those teams,” he said.
Willmar is looking for its first state berth since 2003 while Paynesville is hoping to make the field for the first time since 1983. Regal is hoping to make a repeat state trip after qualifying in 2020 while Marshall hasn’t gone since 2010.
Despite being in uncharted territory, the Rails are focused solely on Paynesville on Saturday.
“If we don't take care of business in the first game and we lose, then we’re done. So we really just got to focus on winning that first game,” Overcash said.
With the Rails having a balanced roster, and a strong chemistry, Overcash highly believes the team wants to win, not solely for themselves as individuals, but for the team.
“This season has been fun. We have a good mix of young and old, when I say old I mean upper 20s, and everybody gets along really well,” he said. “Everybody plays together really well. It’s been one of those seasons where we’ve achieved more every single year since I’ve started running this team.
“When you’re achieving more. Baseball is more fun.”