8/15/2013 11:24:00 AM Bears win four, take region title
by Mike Dalton
They did it the hard way, but the Cannon Falls Bears earned not only a spot in the 2013 state baseball tournament, they earned the #1 seed from Region 4C.
That seemed improbable after last weekend's play, when the Bears went 1-1 and were within one game of elimination. An awesome display of pitching prowess led the locals to four straight weekend wins and the #1 seed.
After opening the region tournament with a loss to the Waterville Indians, the Bears had to face Waterville again Friday night in what was basically a single-elimination tournament: the winner earned a spot at state, and the loser went home. Keith Meyers made sure the Bears would advance.
The veteran southpaw had his way with Waterville hitters, striking out 17 of the 28 batters he faced and give up one hit. He did not walk a batter in a 4-0 win.
He also helped himself at the plate, going 2-5 with a double. Cory Hedeen, Rich Burr and Josh Harrison also had two hits, and Nate Otto, Brandon Voth and Taylor Pagel had one each. Otto had a double.
With a spot in state ensured, the Bears set out to claim the #1 seed in the double-elimination tournament.
Righthander Hedeen got them off to a good start, giving up one run to the Blue Earth Pirates in a 5-1 Saturday win. He struck out three.
Meyers, Hedeen, Burr and Harrison had two hits in the game, and Pagel, Luke Winchell, Jamie Stay and Ryan Brintnall had one each. Burr and Stay had doubles.
It took only seven innings for the Bears to give the Lake Crystal Nine their first loss of the region tournament, 10-0.
Cannon batters pummeled Lake Crystal pitching, banging out 19 hits. Harrison was 4-4 with three RBI, Winchell 3-4, Pagel 3-5, Meyers 2-4 with three RBI and a double, Burr 2-3, Brintnall 2-4 with two RBI, Braxton Lindow 2-4, and Hedeen 1-4.
The Bears had to come right back and face Lake Crystal again, for the #1 seed. It would be Cannon's third game of the day, and fourth in two days.
Four pitchers combined to beat the Nine 8-0, with Harrison getting the win. Winchell, Randolph draftee Scott Otte and Meyers also pitched.
Picking up where they left off in their previous game, the Bears again battered Lake Crystal pitching. Lindow and Meyers had four hits each, Pagel and Harrison had three apiece, Brintnall two, and Hedeen one. Pagel had three RBI.
"Our pitching and defense was outstanding this weekend," commented Meyers. "Only giving up one run over four games only happens with pitchers throwing strikes and defense making plays.
"After a big win to get to state on Friday night and the fact we were missing a few guys on Saturday due to weddings, we could have been content and just went through the motions. That is not what happened," Meyers said. "Guys stepped in, came to play and got the job done. We made those teams work for every out they got. We out hustled, out worked and out played our competition...period. We are a team from top to bottom and I have always had confidence that whoever I put on the field will get the job done. I am proud of the guys for laying it all out on the field, winning four games in a 24 hour period is not an easy task. It was a very fun day!
"In pressure situations champions rise to the occasion and the Bears played like champions this weekend."
The Bears drafted pitcher Brian Welch from Waterville. Their first state tournament game will be against either Avon or Richmond on Saturday, April 24, at 5 p.m. at Maple Lake. The winner of that game plays on Saturday, August 31, at 11 a.m. in Maple Lake, against Owatonna, St. Benedict or Belle Plaine. The tournament continues through Labor Day; games are played at both Maple Lake and Delano.