Muskrats eliminated after 10-run loss

LANGDON – The Renville County Muskrats made a miraculous run in the West Region tournament last weekend, stealing a spot in the championship round and a berth in this weekend’s Class B American Legion baseball state tournament.

But they were unable to recreate that same magic.

Another lopsided loss Thursday at American Legion Field – a 12-2 result against Nelson County – eliminated Renville County from tournament contention.

Errors hindered the Muskrats yet again. They committed five more behind starter Connor Brackenbury, who surrendered 10 earned runs on 14 hits, two walks and two hit batters.

But despite a deflated effort, the Muskrats are proud for bringing Renville County back to the state tournament.

“We don’t exactly make it to state in a lot of other sports,” Muskrats catcher Riley Brown said. “For us to come here, even though we lost out in two days, it was still a fun time being able to come here and play.”

The Owls (22-13) managed a 5-1 lead by the third inning. Seven more over the next three innings saw them trigger the 10-run mercy rule.

Catcher Matt Miller and outfielder Bradyn Sand – representing two of the bottom three spots in Nelson County’s batting order – both registered three RBIs for the Owls.

“Our bottom of the order has got us started in a lot of games this season,” Nelson County coach Brent Leuhring said. “For about half our games this year and in the region tournament, it takes the bottom sometimes to get the top going.”

Before productive fifth and sixth innings from Nelson County, the Muskrats (10-14) kept themselves within striking distance.

Renville County first baseman Berkley Santos scored his team’s first run in the second after drawing a seven-pitch, two-out walk. Consecutive bloop singles to right by Statler Olson and Chase Gates brought him in to make it 2-1.

Then in the fifth, with the Muskrats trailing by four, No. 9 hitter Wyatt Schmidt made it 5-2 after scoring on a Riley Brown fielder’s choice.

But two runs were all Renville County could manage, bringing their two-game tournament total to three.

Like Wednesday, Muskrats coach Roger Erickson reiterated his desire for more spirited efforts from his players after Thursday’s loss, especially when trailing.

“Winning and losing isn’t everything. When you’re trying to be a leader but you’re not giving 100 percent, it doesn’t mean much,” he said. “That’s what our guys need to understand. It’s like life. Life’s a complete circle, and how you start and what happens in the middle determines what people think of you when you finish.”

Yet in defeat, Erickson praised his players their accomplishments.

Before this summer, the Muskrats hadn’t qualified for the state tournament since 2003. As the bottom seed out of seven teams, they knocked off each of the West Region’s top three seeds to break that streak.

“Kudos to them,” said an emotional Erickson. “They beat a lot of good teams at region. I’m happy for them, but I’m sad at the same time (right now).”

Joe Mellenbruch covers Legion baseball and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.