The Mora Blue Devils advanced to the state amateur baseball tournament for the fifth time in the past six seasons and did it in great style. Mora defended its region 1C title by defeating Hibbing and Isanti on Sunday, Aug. 11, in down to the wire one run games.
The weekend began Friday, Aug. 9, as Mora played Isanti for the right to advance to the state tournament and play in the region championship game. Mora couldn’t muster much offense in a 5-0 loss.
Manager Jayson Pautzke said, “We faced one of the top pitchers in our league, and he showed why Friday night.” Mora could only muster three hits and only advanced a runner to third base once on the evening.
Asa Patterson matched the Redbird pitcher inning by inning as the game was scoreless heading to the seventh inning. “Asa pitched a great game for us. We didn’t support him well defensively and obviously offensively,” stated Pautzke.
Isanti broke the scoreless tie with two runs in the seventh inning. A base hit and a crucial error led to the two runs. The Redbirds then put the game away with three more runs in the eighth inning with four base hits.
The loss sent Mora to a win or go home game against Hibbing on Sunday morning. Pitching was at the forefront of this game as the two teams only combined for five base hits. In fact, through seven innings the Blue Devils were being no hit.
Derek Graves put on a pitching display for Mora. Graves went the distance allowing just two hits while striking out 17 Hibbing batters. Graves retired the final 15 batters of the game he faced.
In the eighth inning, Michael Humphrey got the first Mora hit to lead off the inning. Later that inning, Greg Chmiel rifled a base hit to right, but pinch runner Jaden Ponto was thrown out at home with the potential go ahead run.
In the ninth, Mora used some small ball to score the lone run of the game. Troy Jones led off the inning with a great at bat. After fouling off numerous two strike pitches Jones worked a lead off walk. Hunter Foss and Logan Graves both reached base on bunts. Brian Kiel then drew a bases loaded walk to bring in the winning run and send Mora to the state tournament.
“Derek Graves was spectacular. He showed great composure throughout a scoreless game while mowing down Hibbing batters,” said Pautzke.
The win moved Mora to the region championship game against Isanti. Mora had to overcome a slow start and got late inning heroics in an 11 inning 7-6 win.
Mora committed numerous errors behind starter Ryan VanSomeren to put themselves in a hole. Pautzke said, “I think we were a little flat coming out after an emotional win. Ryan gutted out four innings for us not at 100 percent, and we didn’t help him.”
The Devils did take a brief early lead after trailing 2-0. Mora tied the game in the third inning due to the control issues of the Redbird pitcher. Then in the third inning Erik Raivo delivered an RBI single to put Mora up 3-2.
More defensive miscues in the fourth inning gave Isanti the lead right back putting the score at 4-3. Logan Graves then entered the game in the fifth inning and for the most part kept Isanti in check and didn’t let them run away with the game.
“Logan came in and gave us five strong innings. He kept us in the game and gave us a chance,” said Pautzke.
Trailing 5-3 in the sixth inning Greg Chmiel tripled to lead off the inning. Jaden Ponto brought him in to narrow the gap to 5-4.
In the eighth inning, trailing 6-4, Mora got one more back on a Hunter Foss RBI single bringing in Troy Jones. With the score 6-5 heading to the ninth the late game heroics were set.
With two outs in the top of the ninth inning Darin Erickson tied the game with a clutch single to make it 6-6 off of a good Redbird closer. Pautzke said, “Darin came back into the game to pinch hit and delivered a clutch hit like he’s done so many times.”
In the bottom of the 10th inning Isanti got a leadoff double. Derek Graves came into the game after throwing 135 pitches in the Hibbing game. Graves got two strikeouts and Adam Burgess threw out a would be stolen base to end the inning.
In the 11th inning Troy Jones delivered his third consecutive hit bringing in Logan Graves with the go ahead run. Derek Graves struck out the side in the bottom of the 11th to secure the region championship.
“I was so proud of the team for continuing to battle after a slow start. The bats got hot in the later part of the game and there was no quit. Derek Graves was a stud for coming in and doing what he did. He put on a pitching exhibition,” said Pautzke.
With the win Mora secured a first round bye in the state tournament. The Blue Devils will play Sunday, Aug. 25 at 1:30 in Delano. They will play the winner of New London-Spicer and Howard Lake. Come support the Blue Devils in the great environment of the state tournament. For state tournament information visit mnbaseball.org.