Devils dropped from regionals

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 13, 2002

Hard hitting and solid pitching is not always the answer -- just ask the Riverland baseball team.

The Blue Devils, making the school’s first Region XIII Tournament appearance since 1998, were knocked out of the six-team bracket by the Itasca Vikings 10-0 in five innings Sunday in Willmar.

Riverland got a strong starting pitching performance from sophomore John Roesler despite what the scoreboard said after he was chased from the mound in one inning. Roesler surrendered seven hits and seven earned runs as Itasca (24-19) moved into the semifinals.

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"Those were some of the cheapest hits you’ve ever seen in your life," said Riverland first-year coach Dave Meyer. "Even off (Clint) Ripley they just blooped them in. (Roesler) was getting ground balls, they were just finding holes.

"It was just their day, it wasn’t ours."

Riverland (19-12) racked up just two hits -- singles by Nate Vollbrecht and Jamie Morrison -- in suffering their worst loss to a Minnesotan squad this season. Scott Pugliese got the five-inning victory for Itasca, striking out four and walking three.

"I saw more hard-hit balls from my team today than all year," Meyer said. "Everything we hit it was like they had ball magnets on or something."

Itasca tallied three more runs in four innings off reliever Clint Ripley, who pitched Riverland to a 7-4 first-round victory over Waukesha on Friday. Ripley struck out three, walked two and gave up five hits in his stint, which fortunately will not be his last of the year.

The Blue Devils, by finishing second in the Minnesota Community College Conference's Southern Division, qualified for the MCCC State Tournament which is scheduled for this Thursday through Saturday. Central Lakes, in Brainerd, was originally slated to host the tournament, but division champion Ridgewater, in Willmar, may send out the invitations.

Riverland, although not advancing to the National Junior College Division III World Series, will live to see another day.

"Like I told the guys, 'keep your head up, nobody expected us to go this far,'" Coach Meyer said. "'Concentrate on going to state this weekend. Be proud of yourselves.'

"If I had to do it all over again, this is the team I’d want to lead into battle with me."



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WP -- Pugliese. LP -- Roesler (5-4).