CANNON FALLS – With its ace on the mound, Cannon Falls had a great chance early during Saturday's opening-round game in the Region 4C tournament. The fifth-seeded Bears had the bases loaded, but came away with just one run against second-seeded Wells. It was not the start that Cannon Falls manager Ryan Brintnall wanted. But it turned out to be a nonissue as the Bears came away with a 4-0 victory at John Burch Park.
After the Wildcats escaped that threat, the sense of a missed opportunity did not permeate the Cannon Falls dugout.
“You like to score with the bases loaded and nobody out, you want to score that run,” Brintnall said. “But we've told ourselves all year to take it inning by inning. We knew that if we continued to get guys on that we'd have good chances.”
Perhaps the best chance Cannon Falls had was on the mound. Keith Meyers has long been a sure thing for the Bears. And on Saturday, after a complete-game shutout highlighted by nine strikeouts, that was as apparent as ever.
“I just had to go in and mix speeds and throw strikes. I didn't really feel great. I threw a lot of pitches last weekend. I threw 90 (pitches) on Saturday and came back on Sunday because of the rain delay. So the arm was tight all week, and it didn't really loosen up until the seventh inning,” Meyers said. “And that's usually the way it goes because I'm old and it doesn't loosen up like it used to.”
The only damage Wells was able to impart on Meyers was from Todd Rasmussen. The best bat in the Wildcats' lineup ended up 3-for-4.
“Their no. 3 hitter had a pretty good day against me, but that's OK because he's the only one that did,” Meyers said.
With Meyers in cruise control, the Bears really just needed to find some insurance in case Wells found a way to bloop or bunt its way to a run.
It didn't take long as Alex Tauer doubled home two runs in the third. Tanner Jackson, who had an RBI in the first inning, had another in the eighth that was unnecessary, but another example of a team that continues to fight no matter the score.
Cannon Falls, coming off a trip to the state tournament a year ago, has a mix of older and younger players. While Meyers is still able to dominate once a week, he knows that the experience of 2015, and being able to upset higher seeds in 2016 means that the older guys are in good hands.
“Last year was a really big year to go deep. We have a lot of young guys. We have a couple young pitchers, but we have 25 guys that want to come to the ballpark. And they're here early working on stuff, they want to get better. They want to be part of a team,” Meyers said. “I don't know how many years I have left, but I'm really excited about the future of Cannon Falls Bears baseball. And if that core group of guys keep doing what they're doing, we'll have a good team for years to come.”
Blue Earth 5, Cannon Falls 2
On Saturday, Cannon Falls missed on its opportunity to put Wells in an early hole. On Sunday, third-seeded Blue Earth showed the Bears how it's done. The Pirates scored three runs in the top of the first inning, added single runs in the second and fourth, and then rode out the lead for a 5-2 victory that sends Cannon Falls to the elimination bracket of the Region 4C tournament.
Brandyn Olsen and Bobby Olson each had two RBI for Blue Earth, with Olsen throwing a complete-game for the victory.
Bears Alex Tauer and Braxton Lindow both knocked in a run in the bottom of the seventh. Tauer had three hits in the game, while Lindow and Rich Burr each had two. Lindow also took the loss, throwing four innings and giving up five earned runs on six hits and four walks.
Cannon Falls will face Minnesota Lake on Saturday in an elimination game. The Royals lost 9-2 to Hampton in the first round before eliminating Wells with a 6-5 win on Sunday. The winner will earn a state berth and will face the loser of the Hampton/Blue Earth semifinal on Aug. 14. The championship game will follow.