Column: Playoffs are twice as nice with two Austin teams advancing

Published 9:48pm Monday, August 13, 2012

One year ago it seemed inconceivable or even impossible that both Austin amateur baseball teams could advance past the section tournament.

The Austin Greyhounds made it to state last year and were the favorites in Section 4B this year, but the Blue Sox were a Class ‘C’ team last year that just won three games.

The Blue Sox found their rhythm at the right time this summer as they didn’t win their first game within Section 4B until the last week of the regular season. They knocked off the Hounds and Rosemount in the regular season and took down the Rochester Royals twice in the postseason to get to the supersection tournament, where they will play the Mankato Twins in Chaska Friday at 8:30 p.m.

Blue Sox managers Josh Kunze and Jamey Pratt deserve a lot of credit for putting together a team that not only can compete in Class ‘B,’ but also has a shot to get to the state tournament.

The Blue Sox picked up an ace in the hole late in the year when they brought back Brady Banse, who is interning with the St. Paul Saints. Banse was one of Riverland’s top pitchers a few years ago and he once starred for the Blue Sox as well, but it had been awhile since he had pitched competitively.

Needless to say, he passed the test when he pitched the Sox past the Hounds and Royals in their late run.

John Kirby also gave the Sox some momentum when he joined the team midseason after playing with the Hounds earlier in the summer. Kirby, who hit .422 this season, is one of many young players who can help make the Blue Sox a threat to compete for a state tournament for many summers to come if the team sticks together.

As for the Hounds, they have been to state before, but this year was hardly business as usual. Steve Serratore filled in at catcher much of the season as the Hounds’ fixture at the backstop, Matt Raso, played multiple positions. The team also lost the power hitting of Craig Braaten and Dan Swift and had to play a little more small ball this summer.

To boost their defense, the Hounds brought in Logan Spitzack and Aaron Klatt, a couple of young pitchers who give the team great depth behind the trio of Nels Nelson, Joe Huffman and Bryan Toov.

The Hounds open their subsection tournament against the Moorhead Brewers in Shakopee Friday at 8:30 p.m.

Now that two Austin teams have made it past the Section tournament, we’ll have to see if two can make it to the state tournament.

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