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Hounds will host SpamTown Challenge this week

The Austin Greyhounds are ready for their annual showcase.

The Hounds will take to the field and host some of the best amateur baseball teams from Minnesota and beyond in the SpamTown Challenge, which runs from Thursday until Sunday at Marcusen Park.

This year’s tournament includes the top four ranked teams Class A teams in the state of Minnesota and nine teams in all. The tournament will be divided up into pools and the Hounds will be paired up with Sparta, Wisconsin, who they play Thursday at 6:15 p.m. and the St. Paul Capitals, who they will play at 9 p.m. on Friday.

“They’re both solid teams. They’re both going to be good,” John Frein of the Austin Greyhounds said. “We’re going to have our hands full with this tournament and whoever walks away with the title is going to have to earn it.”

The Hounds are in early season form, but they usually use the SpamTown Challenge to find their footing. Frein said the team has it’s sights set on improving each time they take the field.

“We have struggled a little bit gaining some ground with an established lineup, but our whole strategy is to get as many games in as we can and be as good as we can at the end of the year,” Frein said. “Hopefully we can get geared up and make a run, come playoff time.”

With fewer teams than years past, the tournament’s format has changed this season. If a team drops its first two games, it will likely be knocked out, but if a team wins one of its two games, it will likely advance to bracket play on Saturday.

Joe Serratore has taken on a big leadership role with the Hounds this summer and he said the team is still in the process of getting things going. He’s looking to get Tyler Nelson, Steve Serratore and Henry Fleek back in the lineup in July and the team is still working on getting it’s pitching staff ready.

“We’ve had a tough time getting players, but it’s getting better,” Joe said. “We cut down our schedule to just our section games. We have potential to have a real good team come playoff time. There’s enough good players out there, but we’re not getting guys to the park every day. It’s been difficult, but it’s a reality with how things are now days. It’s just kind of the way it is.”

Frein and the Hounds are looking forward to a strong four days of baseball.

“I think the park’s in good shape and we’re hoping for a good showing for anyone watching,” Frein said. “It’s good baseball right in Austin’s back yard and we have some of the best teams in the state. It should be entertaining.”

All SpamTown Challenge games will be held in Marcusen Park.

There will be passes available for the whole tournament as well as a pass for  just a single day. Concessions will sell beer, Spamburgers, brats and hot dogs.

The SpamTown Challenge began in 2005.

SCHEDULE

Thursday

Hounds vs. Sparta, 6:15 p.m.; Rochester vs. Westmont, 8:30 p.m.

Friday

Kewaskum vs. SLP, 11 a.m.; Kewaskum vs. Minneapolis Cobras, 1:30 p.m.; Minnetonka vs. Westmont, 4 p.m.; Minnetonka vs. Rochester Royals, 6:30 p.m.; Hounds vs. St. Paul Capitals, 9 p.m.;

Saturday

Minneapolis Cobras vs. SLP, 9:30 a.m.; St. Paul Capitals vs. Sparta, noon

Bracket games from 2:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday

Title game at 10 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.