ST. CLOUD - It's been almost 25 years since the Stark Longhorns last appeared in the Minnesota Amateur Baseball State Tournament, but the trip back to state was short-lived as the Longhorns were handed a 5-1 loss to Waconia to end their season at Joe Faber Field.
Caleb Hillesheim took the loss for the Longhorns. He went eight innings and allowed eight hits. He struck out 11, including the last five he faced.
The Longhorns (13-18 to end the season) were playing in their first state tournament since 1988. Unfortunately for Stark, it gave up an early lead and was never able to solve Waconia right-hander Chris Bullis, who earned the win for the Lakers.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Stark shortstop Bob Schmid makes a relay throw to first as a Waconia base runner slides into second during the opening round of the Class C Amateur Baseball State Tournament at Faber Field in St. Cloud Friday.
Bullis went all nine innings. He allowed six hits and he struck out nine.
Stark didn't have a lot of scoring opportunities off Bullis, but when the Longhorns did, they weren't able to take advantage. They stranded seven in the game.
"I think what he [Bullis] did was he threw strikes when he was ahead," Stark coach Brian Mathiowetz said. "He didn't give us much. We had some hard-hit balls right at them. That's just baseball, it's where the game is played sometimes."
The Lakers got on the board with two outs in the bottom of the second. After Eric Durkin reached on a fielder's choice, Nick Litfin laid a bunt down the third base line, but the throw was wild by Stark third baseman Tim Seifert, putting Durkin on third and Litkin on second on the infield hit.
Ben Smother followed with a grounder to Seifert, who's throw sailed high and brought Tyler Jensen off the bag. Both runners scored to make it 2-0.
The Longhorns got a one-out double from Joey Wahl in the fourth, but Bullis got Jensen to pop out for the second out and Chris Fahey to strike out to end the threat.
The Lakers took advantage of a leadoff single by Litfin in the bottom of the fourth. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and took third on a sacrifice fly. Ronnie Olsen drove him in with a sharp single to center to put the Lakers up 3-0 at that point.
The Longhorns put together another threat in the top of the sixth. Jake Mangen singled with one out and Bob Schmid's grounder to second was mishandled to put runners on first and second. Bullis then struck out Wahl for the second out and got Jensen to line out to third to end another threat by Stark.
The Lakers broke the game open in the bottom of the sixth, scoring another run on Olsen's second RBI of the game to score Litfin. Bullis then hit a grounder to third. Jensen threw Olsen out at second, but the throw to first was late, allowing Justin Klingelhotz to score to make it 5-0.
The Longhorns scored their first run after Adam Sellner lifted a bases-loaded fly to right. Dusty Mangen scored on the sac fly for the second out, and one batter later, Jake Mangen hit a fly to center to end the threat.
Hillesheim also walked six in the loss.
"Caleb was tough, he got a little bit wild in the middle innings," Mathiowetz said. "It kind of hurt him, but he's a strong kid and he did what we needed him to do, we just didn't score enough runs."
All five of Waconia's runs came from the bottom three hitters in the order. Litfin had three hits and three runs to lead the attack. Olsen and Bullis each had two hits for the Lakers.
Wahl and Craig Fischer each had two hits for the Longhorns.
Despite the loss, Mathiowetz wasn't too disappointed in the end.
"I'm just real proud of this team," Mathiowetz said. "The kids really hung in and played hard the whole year. We made a really good playoff run and I couldn't ask for anything more from these guys."