by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
An Elk River men’s slow-pitch team with a long history together had a breakout summer, capturing both state and national championships in the US Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Class D division.
McAlpine Well Drilling/Dayton Bar & Grill won the state tournament in Brooklyn Park on Aug. 19-21 with a 7-1 record, then nationals in Omaha on Labor Day weekend with a 6-0 mark.
“Most of us have played together since 2002,” said captain Reed McAlpine. “We’ve come close at state three times before, placing second in 2010, 2005 and 2006.”
The key game at nationals was an 8-7 win over Urban Landworks, also a Minnesota team, from Burnsville. Shortstop Jeremy Herold made a great catch of a pop-up in the top of the seventh to preserve a 7-7 tie. Chad Degroat tripled in the bottom of the inning with two outs and scored on Eric Herold’s single.
The win put them in the finals unbeaten, and they repelled the same team 8-3 in the finals with two chances to win once.
Ross Reemts hit .842, Eric Herold .667 and Brady Nelson .600 at nationals.
The lineup had Degroat pitching, Brent Lange catching Jake Carlson or Tony Hoaglund at first, Matt Geissler or Pete Shallenberger at second, Reed McAlpine at third, Jeremy Herold at short, Joey Reemts at middle infield, and Eric Herold, Brady Nelson and Ross Reemts or Neil McAlpine in the outfield left to right.
“Our defense made the difference in Nationals, turning numerous double plays,” said McAlpine, citing Geissler, Nelson, Degroat and Joey Reemts as defensive leaders.
The team got to pick someone for nationals tournament MVP and named Degroat, while also designating Joey and Ross Reemts, Eric Herald and Lange for all-tournament.
At the state tournament, Degoat batted .731, Eric Herold .679 and Reed McAlpine .656.
They went to finals unbeaten after three straight come-from-behind wins, and had two chances to win once against MPL/One Industries of Little Canada. They lost 20-14 to force a second game, which they won 12-10.
At state, they named Eric Herald as tourney MVP, and put Degroat, Carlson, Nelson, Reed McAlpine, and Ross and Joey Reemts on all tournament.
The squad is eligible for the world tournament in Orlando in late September but hasn’t yet decided if they’re going, said McAlpine.
All the players are ERHS graduates except Lange (Buffalo), Hoaglund (Monticello), Shallenberger (Minneapolis Henry) and Ross Reemts (Rogers).
They used to play in an Elk River league but now just get together for weekend tournaments, said McAlpine, with most of them playing for other teams in the Tuesday Night League. They had a 41-17 record and didn’t win any tournaments before state and nationals, finishing third twice and fifth once.