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Amateur Baseball: Victory League handling situation best it can

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With Region 8C playoffs three weeks away, Victory League baseball teams are prepping for even more changes to a season full of changes.

Concerns over COVID-19 forced a delayed start to the Minnesota amateur baseball season resulting in unique scheduling and fewer games.

“We got thrown a curveball that nobody could hit,” Victory League president Randy Heidmann said. “After the state allowed us to start and put out guidelines for COVID-19 and all this other stuff based upon Minnesota Stay Safe guidelines, we set up a schedule for each division. Each division played a round-robin schedule and that now is going to be used to see who goes into region play. We will not be doing league playoffs this year. The top two teams from each division will advance to the region tournament.”

Nisswa currently holds the top seed for the North Division with St. Mathias and Fort Ripley tied for second with 4-2 records.

The Pierz Lakers claimed the top spot in the East Division last week with one more weekend of regular season play remaining. The Lakers lead Buckman and the Pierz Brewers, both of which own 4-2 records.

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In the South, Avon leads the division with a 5-1 record, but St. Stephen and St. Wendel both own 4-2 records.

The Sobieski Skis are 7-0 and have dominated the West Division, but they are a Class B team and will not be playing in the Region 8 tournament. Upsala, at 4-2, would claim the No. 1 seed with Randall at 3-3 at No. 2. Those seeds are if the season ended today.

“This has probably been the most interesting summer that we can ever remember, Sobieski player Brad Czech said. “We’ve been following the guidelines that have been given to us and trying to have an enjoyable experience with what we’re allowed to do. There have been some nice crowds at our ball games and people have made it possible to socially distance themselves. Baseball fields usually give you that opportunity to spread out and handle things the right way.”

Attendance has been good at most Victory League games according to Heidmann.

“For the Fort and St. Mathias game last weekend there was a very good crowd out there,” Heidmann said. “The games that I’ve been to it’s been a lot of families and they’re practicing social distancing between families that are sitting together. I can only speak to the games that I’ve gone to. I would say there were close to 150 people at the Fort-St. Mathias game. It was a nice crowd.

“I’ve heard some of the crowds down in Pierz have been good sized too. People are pent up and want to see some baseball. It will be interesting to see what happens once regions come around.”

Sobieski’s playoffs will begin Aug. 8-9 for the first round. The No. 1 seed will host the No. 6 seed, No. 2 vs. No .5 and No. 3 vs. No. 4.

With Region 8 also starting Aug. 8-9 in Pierz, that leaves some big games for the final weekend starting Friday, July 24, with the Pierz Lakers vs. the Pierz Brewers and the Pierz Bulldogs vs. Buckman.

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On Saturday, July 25, Nisswa hosts St. Mathias, who beat the Lightning at the beginning of the season.

One of the final games of the regular season will be St. Stephen vs. St. Wendel. It’s the only game of the weekend for either team, which should mean the winner advances to the playoffs while the other stays home.

“The whole region tournament will start Aug. 8-9 and then the following weekend the 14-15-16 will determine the four teams that go into state competition in New Ulm and Springfield,” Heidmann said. “I’m not a region commissioner, but I would assume that the region will abide by the 250-person threshold for attendance.

“I can give information about the state and they’re going to clear the stands after each game of the state tournament. I don’t know how that’s going to fly as far as people are concerned. I don’t know what’s going to happen if somebody from up in Northern Minnesota drives down to southern Minnesota to watch state baseball and can’t get in because they’re reached the 250-person threshold. Those are all questions the state will have to deal with, but I would assume the region will have to follow the state guidelines.”

The Region 8 tournament will be a double-elimination tournament for the first weekend. Six teams will advance out of the first weekend with two of those teams being undefeated. There will be four other teams with just one loss.

“They’re going to do something different, which I think is kind of unique, on Friday, Aug. 14, in Pierz, it will be the championship game,’ Heidmann said. “So the two undefeated teams from the first weekend will play for No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. We get four seeds going into the state tournament.

“Then on Saturday, there will be three games to determine who advances to the state tournament.

The state tournament will remain the same number of teams as last year between the two sites of New Ulm and Springfield. The state tournament will begin with a few games Friday, Aug. 21, with the majority of the tournament starting Saturday, Aug. 22.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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