Aggies edge Lions in Region 6 rematch
As the old adage goes, revenge is a dish best served cold, and Velva-Drake-Anamoose picked a particularly crisp afternoon to deliver it.
The Aggies, last season’s Region 6 runners-up, edged Bishop Ryan, the defending regional champion, 6-4 in Game 1 of a doubleheader Tuesday at Corbett Field.
The Lions (6-3) defeated V-D-A 9-3 in the 2013 region title game, effectively ending the Aggies’ season and their dream of a state tournament berth. Tuesday was their chance to dish out some payback, and they delivered.
It was a good win for the Aggies, but it’s just like any other, said V-D-A coach Matt Weidler.
“These guys have played a lot of baseball and played in a lot of big games,” he said, pointing to his dugout. “It’s just another game. We’ll see them again down the road, and we’ve still got a lot of regional baseball games left. But it feels good to get a win.”
V-D-A has been in this position before. The Aggies triumphed over Ryan 6-5 in the regular-season finale last year to clinch the regular-season crown.
But the Lions bounced back in the regional tournament, defeating the Aggies twice en route to a state tournament berth.
The Aggies will be keen to avoid repeating the same scenario.
“Hopefully when we play them again, we can pull out another win,” Weidler said. “I’m just satisfied with the win today.”
The Lions started off strong. Their first two batters, Nick Berentson and Jake Magnuson, reached base and scored in the first inning, giving Ryan an early 2-0 lead.
Then, the home bats cooled. Following a first-inning RBI single from senior Austin Eggl, which plated Berentson, the Lions didn’t manage another hit until the fifth inning, a span which lasted 17 at-bats.
“I think we’re playing a little too tight right now,” Ryan coach Brent Nelson said. “We’ve gotta loosen up and have a little more fun. We talked about that after the game.”
While the Lions were struggling at the plate, V-D-A was heating up.
The Aggies notched one run in the second, two in the third and three in the fourth, a scoring spree punctuated by a two-run triple from sophomore Shad Vedaa.
Vedaa’s left-field drive gave V-D-A all the runs it would need to secure the victory.
“I saw the pitcher nod his catcher off, so I knew it was a curveball coming,” Vedaa said. “I sat back and it came right down the middle of the plate, and I hit it hard.”
Ryan had its chances to come back, but a lack of clutch hitting proved to be its eventual downfall.
The Lions came out firing in the fifth as Eggl and seniors Mason Kramer and Tyler Allers reached base safely. Allers, who led Ryan with two RBIs, drove Eggl in with a seeing-eye single, putting runners on the corners with no outs, prompting a V-D-A meeting at the mound.
Ryan didn’t record another hit after that.
The Lions stranded 12 runners on base, including three frames in which the bases were left loaded.
“We did the same thing in our weekend games,” Nelson said. “We got runners on, but we couldn’t get that big hit. That was a huge part of the game today. We’ve gotta have someone step up and drive those runs in.”
V-D-A sat all but one of its starters in Game 2, and the Lions went on to claim a 10-0 win. They were boosted by a strong outing from sophomore pitcher Jesse Verbruggen, who struck out six of the 12 batters he faced.
The Aggies play Garrison-Max in another regional doubleheader at 4 p.m. Thursday in Velva. Ryan won’t play its next game until Tuesday when it also takes on the Troopers in a doubleheader, scheduled for 4 p.m. at Corbett Field.
Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.