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Bemidji's Northern Heat players celebrate their win of the Cal Ripken State Tournament for 12-year-olds Monday afternoon at the Mark Evenson Complex. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper
Bemidji's Northern Heat players celebrate their win of the Cal Ripken State Tournament for 12-year-olds Monday afternoon at the Mark Evenson Complex. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Cal Ripken State Tournament: Heat rises to top

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Tarron Baker exuded only confidence when he took the mound Monday in the championship game of the Minnesota Cal Ripken State Tournament at the Little League fields.

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His mother, Tara, admitted to a different emotional response.

"I'm a nervous wreck," Tara said as she monitored the action from outside the fence near the Bemidji dugout.

"There's nothing I can do but stay focused and keep track of the book."

Tara handles Bemidji's scorebook and had a ring-side seat for this summer's action. Over the weekend she chronicled an unbeaten trip through the state tournament field that culminated in Monday's 3-0 victory over Waite Park.

"Tarron threw 71 pitches," his mother said. "I'm very proud of him and all of the boys. It was a great weekend. But I'm very relieved that it's over."

So is Shelly Geerdes, the mother of Monday's starting shortstop, Tony Geerdes.

"Shelly slept on the couch last night and not because we had an argument," said husband Kevin. "She was just too nervous to sleep."

Monday's workmanlike performance, however, showed that the mothers were worrying without cause.

The boys are only 12 years old, but an observer could tell that they have been correctly taught how to play the game.

Tarron walked the first batter and struck out the second. Waite Park's third hitter sent a slow two-hopper to Grant Carlson at second base. Carlson had a pair of options when he waited for the grounder: throw to first for the sure out or take a risk and try to nail the runner at second.

Early in a state championship game sometimes taking a risk is the better option.

"I wasn't nervous, even though the first batter walked, because sometimes you have to have confidence in yourself as a pitcher and in your defense," Tarron said. "And I always have confidence in the defense."

Carlson charged the ground ball and had plenty of time to shift his feet and his weight in the direction of second base. Now facing shortstop Tony Geerdes, Carlson threw a strike to his teammate and Bemidji was able to nail the lead runner.

After another three pitches, Waite Park's threat was over as Baker broke a third-strike curve ball past the batter.

Bemidji fared better in its half of the first as Nick Leitner boomed a double to center, Geerdes dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt and Erik Fitzgerald singled to right for an RBI.

Leitner also doubled and scored in the third when he reached third base and challenged the defense to throw him out after bluffing a break for home. The defense crumbled, the throw went into left field and Bemidji was ahead 2-0.

Pinch runner Andrew Matsen scored an important insurance tally in the fifth when he camped at third as the defender waited to catch Josh Cervenka's fly ball to deep center. Matsen listened for the signal from coach Mark Elliott and, once directed, raced to the plate, scoring with a perfect slide under the attempted tag of the catcher.

Fundamental baseball at its finest and perfectly executed by a group of 12-year-old kids.

"I'm always confident when we play in a game like this," Elliott said. "When you play in a state championship game it says that you are doing something right.

"This is a great bunch of kids and they have absorbed everything the coaches have told them," Elliott continued. "The coaches throughout the entire youth baseball program have put in the effort and we believe that if the coaches put in that type of effort the kids will too."

The effort, by the coaches and the kids, was rewarded Monday. For the third time since 2008 Bemidji will be playing in the regional tournament July 29-31, this time in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. In 2008 Bemidji won the regional and played in the National event.

That is the goal again this summer. It's the fundamental goal of every team that reaches the district tournament and fundamentals will determine which team lofts the championship trophy.

"It's not surprising that we won this weekend," Leitner said. "We know we have a good ball club."

After watching Monday's action, Leitner's assessment was fundamentally sound.

Y pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

Tarron Baker exuded only confidence when he took the mound Monday in the championship game of the Minnesota Cal Ripken State Tournament at the Little League fields.

His mother, Tara, admitted to a different emotional response.

"I'm a nervous wreck," Tara said as she monitored the action from outside the fence near the Bemidji dugout.

"There's nothing I can do but stay focused and keep track of the book."

Tara handles Bemidji's scorebook and had a ring-side seat for this summer's action. Over the weekend she chronicled an unbeaten trip through the state tournament field that culminated in Monday's 3-0 victory over Waite Park.

"Tarron threw 71 pitches," his mother said. "I'm very proud of him and all of the boys. It was a great weekend. But I'm very relieved that it's over."

So is Shelly Geerdes, the mother of Monday's starting shortstop, Tony Geerdes.

"Shelly slept on the couch last night and not because we had an argument," said husband Kevin. "She was just too nervous to sleep."

Monday's workmanlike performance, however, showed that the mothers were worrying without cause.

The boys are only 12 years old, but an observer could tell that they have been correctly taught how to play the game.

Tarron walked the first batter and struck out the second. Waite Park's third hitter sent a slow two-hopper to Grant Carlson at second base. Carlson had a pair of options when he waited for the grounder: throw to first for the sure out or take a risk and try to nail the runner at second.

Early in a state championship game sometimes taking a risk is the better option.

"I wasn't nervous, even though the first batter walked, because sometimes you have to have confidence in yourself as a pitcher and in your defense," Tarron said. "And I always have confidence in the defense."

Carlson charged the ground ball and had plenty of time to shift his feet and his weight in the direction of second base. Now facing shortstop Tony Geerdes, Carlson threw a strike to his teammate and Bemidji was able to nail the lead runner.

After another three pitches, Waite Park's threat was over as Baker broke a third-strike curve ball past the batter.

Bemidji fared better in its half of the first as Nick Leitner boomed a double to center, Geerdes dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt and Erik Fitzgerald singled to right for an RBI.

Leitner also doubled and scored in the third when he reached third base and challenged the defense to throw him out after bluffing a break for home. The defense crumbled, the throw went into left field and Bemidji was ahead 2-0.

Pinch runner Andrew Matsen scored an important insurance tally in the fifth when he camped at third as the defender waited to catch Josh Cervenka's fly ball to deep center. Matsen listened for the signal from coach Mark Elliott and, once directed, raced to the plate, scoring with a perfect slide under the attempted tag of the catcher.

Fundamental baseball at its finest and perfectly executed by a group of 12-year-old kids.

"I'm always confident when we play in a game like this," Elliott said. "When you play in a state championship game it says that you are doing something right.

"This is a great bunch of kids and they have absorbed everything the coaches have told them," Elliott continued. "The coaches throughout the entire youth baseball program have put in the effort and we believe that if the coaches put in that type of effort the kids will too."

The effort, by the coaches and the kids, was rewarded Monday. For the third time since 2008 Bemidji will be playing in the regional tournament July 29-31, this time in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. In 2008 Bemidji won the regional and played in the National event.

That is the goal again this summer. It's the fundamental goal of every team that reaches the district tournament and fundamentals will determine which team lofts the championship trophy.

"It's not surprising that we won this weekend," Leitner said. "We know we have a good ball club."

After watching Monday's action, Leitner's assessment was fundamentally sound.

pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

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