It wasn’t an easy road.
But for the first time since the franchise’s inception in 1987, the Upsala Blue Jays clinched a trip to the Class C state amateur baseball tournament, defeating St. Stephen 8-3 at Avon, Saturday.
Lastrup also secured a bid to the state tournament over the weekend, with Sobieski and Avon clinching the first two berths a week ago.
Upsala 8, St. Stephen 3
Simply making it into the Region 8C field was a difficult test for Upsala to pass, needing to sweat out a 15-inning marathon with Randall during which the Blue Jays at one point were down to their final set of outs.
Moving onto regions, Upsala dropped its first round game to Fort Ripley 10-5 before needing another rally in an elimination game with Buckman.
Trailing 5-4 heading into the ninth, the Blue Jays scratched across a run to force extra innings, winning 7-5 in 10 to set the stage for a state play-in game with St. Stephen.
Upsala led 3-1 after six, but the Steves evened the score on a sacrifice fly by Cody Wolhart and game-tying single by Travis Phelps in the bottom of the seventh.
The Blue Jays took the lead right back in the top of the eighth on a two-run single by Brady Burggraff, then put the game away with three runs in the ninth to preserve the win.
Upsala’s primary production came from the bottom of the order, with Adam Gerads and Brandon Welinski each going 3-for-5 and combining for three runs and two RBIs.
Eric Lampert added two hits and Justin Lampert doubled and scored.
Matt Swanson earned the win on the mound for Upsala, scattering six hits over seven innings.
John Fuchs recorded the save with two shutout innings to seal the win.
Lastrup 3, Fort Ripley 2 (10)
Lastrup’s path to state wasn’t much easier than Upsala’s, locking horns with Fort Ripley in an extra-inning clash in a state play-in game.
Lastrup turned to ace Chad Weiss, who went the distance in a 3-2 win for the Lakers in 10.
Weiss’ biggest inning was his last, as Fort Ripley loaded the bases with only one out in the top of the 10th, only for Weiss to register a strikeout looking and infield pop out to keep the game tied at 2-2.
In the bottom of the inning, Weiss then led off with a double and advanced to third on a passed ball.
A grounder back to the mound produced the first out, but Rick Schlieman came through with a walk-off single to left to bring home Weiss with the game-winning run.
Weiss scattered eight hits in earning the complete-game win, striking out 13.
Brandon Lochner led Upsala with three hits and a pair of steals, with Weiss and Dustin Schmaltz adding two hits apiece.
Sobieski 4, Avon 3
Sobieski gained the inside track to a fourth-consecutive region title, edging Avon 4-3.
Despite allowing his first earned runs of the season, Sobieski ace Tyler Jendro earned the complete-game win for the Skis, striking out eight.
Avon took a drastically differing approach, tossing eight different pitchers at the Skis in eight innings.
Scott Litchy hit a two-run double in the third to give Avon a 2-1 lead, then gave the Lakers the lead back in the fifth on an RBI single.
Sobieski came back to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh, as Jon Czech dropped down a sacrifice bunt following a base hit by Joey Hanowski and a hit batter.
Isaac Smieja tied the score with a sacrifice fly, then Andrew Gurbada put Sobieski in front with a run-scoring single.
Lastrup 5, Upsala 1
Upsala grabbed an early lead with a run in the first, but Lastrup kept the Blue Jays off the board the rest of the way to produce a 5-1 win and advance to the consolation semifinals.
Scott Janson held the Blue Jays to six hits over 7 1/3 innings to notch the win on the mound, with Reggie Litke recording the final five outs to pick up the save.
Rick Schlieman went 3-for-5 with an RBI, Dustin Schmaltz collected two hits and Brandon Lochner doubled and scored two runs.
Brady Burggraff and Eric Lampert each had two hits for Upsala.
Avon 13, Lastrup 10
Avon went from looking at a potential 10-run rule win to needing to barely scrape by, but managed to edge Lastrup 13-10 to earn a rematch with Sobieski in the region finals.
Avon’s pitching approach ended up mirroring its strategy from the day before, with none of its five pitchers recording more than seven outs.
Scott Litchy ended up earning the win with two shutout innings of relief.