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Blue Jays seize state berth once again

With a pair of victories during the opening rounds of play in the Region 7C Tournament last week, the Plato Blue Jays have once again punched their ticket for the upcoming Class C state tournament.
In front of record crowds at Lions Park in Waconia, top-seeded Plato rolled to an 8-1 win over No. 8 Cologne in the regional opener on Thursday, Aug. 2, before rallying twice to overcome fifth-seeded Green Isle 5-4 in a state-qualifying matchup on Saturday, Aug. 4.
Plato, which rode into the tournament with a 17-1 record, cruised to its 15th consecutive victory with a convincing win over the Hollanders. The Blue Jays scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning to all-but decide the game just minutes after it began.
Starting pitcher Chris Odegaard struck out 15 batters while scattering six runs and three walks over seven innings. The lone run scored by Cologne in the fourth inning was unearned. Reliever Zack Stockman tossed the final two innings of the contest.
Tyler Lang led Plato’s 10-hit attack with a pair of doubles and three RBI with one run scored. Chris Odegaard and Nolan Lepel each drove in two runs, while Matt Odegaard scored twice.
The Blue Jays’ second matchup was predictably far tougher, coming in the form of Plato’s most heated rival in Green Isle. The two teams battled to a 6-5 win for Plato to wrap up the regular season on July 22, and their regional showdown was also a tightly-contested affair.
A determined Irish side came out swinging against Plato starter Adam Prehn, scoring a pair of runs on an error, a single and a double to take a 2-0 lead before the Blue Jays’ first at-bat.
Plato struck back in the bottom of the frame as Chris Odegaard smacked a leadoff double and then scored on a passed ball followed by a wild pitch to make the score 2-1.
However, Green Isle immediately matched that with another tally in the top of the second and the score remained 3-1 heading into the bottom of the third.
Plato tied the score 3-3 in its third turn at the plate as Lang drove home Matt and Chris Odegaard on a booming double. The Blue Jays loaded the bases after Lang’s two-RBI hit, but were unable to do any further damage in the stanza.
Green Isle came right back in the fourth to take the lead one last time at 4-3 on a solo home run over the left field wall. However, that proved to be the final tally that the Irish would notch, and it took just a few more innings for the Blue Jays to find their way out front.
Ryan Moriarty did the honors in drawing Plato even in the sixth inning. After reaching base on a single, he stole second and then was bunted over to third base by Joe Nix. Dylan McCormick lofted a fly ball into the outfield, which proved to be just deep enough as Moriarty tagged up and scored on a bang-bang play at the plate in which he just slid under the tag to make the count 4-4.
The Blue Jays’ go-ahead and final run of the game came across in much the same manner as their first score. Chris Odegaard led off the bottom of the seventh with a double and was moved to third on a sacrifice fly by Matt Odegaard. With two outs and Nolan Lepel at the plate, the ball once again went to the backstop to bring Chris Odegaard home with the eventual winning tally.
Plato took its 5-4 advantage into the ninth, with Prehn still on the hill. However, after a one-out walk, manager Adam Dammann brought McCormick on in relief. The former Brownton player, in his first season with the Blue Jays, quickly dispatched Green Isle’s comeback hopes with a strikeout and a pop-up to third base to end the game and send Plato to state.
Prehn overcame the early Irish outburst to throw 8-1/3 innings with five strikeouts. Offensively, Lepel and Chris Odegaard each went 2-for-4 to lead the Blue Jays’ nine-hit effort, with the latter scoring three times.
Yet another state appearance secured, Plato now has a regional championship in its sights. The Blue Jays are scheduled to take on Young America in the final game of the winner’s bracket at noon Saturday. A win puts Plato in the title round at 11 a.m. Sunday.
A defeat sends the Blue Jays to the one-loss bracket finale at 6 p.m. Saturday against a yet-to-be determined opponent. The victor of the one-loss bracket advances to the regional title round, needing two wins to claim the 7C championship.