the Hinckley Invitational Tournament, one of the team’s best finishes in several years, beating Belle Plaine and Maple Plain before falling to Elko in the final.
The tournament began Friday on Tom Miller night, as the team inducted the longtime player and coach into the Knights Hall of Fame. A huge crowd, including friends and family from Miller’s hometown of Belle Plaine fellow teachers, former students and many friends and neighbors from the Hinckley-Finlayson area, were in attendance.
The Knights won their first-round game against Miller’s former team, the Belle Plaine Tigers, 2-1. Hinckley’s first two batters crossed the plate, and they were the last for the night. Catcher Trevor Johnson reached base on an error, first baseman Shawn Ausmus followed with a single, a sacrifice fly by pitcher Cory Schmidt brought in Johnson, and an RBI single by left fielder Dylan Libra scored Ausmus. In the bottom of the seventh in the scheduled seven-inning game, Belle Plaine got the would-be winning run in scoring position with only one out, but Schmidt came up big, striking out the last two batters to end the game. Five Knights each had one hit in the game; Ausmus, TJ Johnson, Schmidt, Libra and Jacob Perrotti. Schmidt and Libra each had an RBI, and Schmidt a sacrifice fly. Schmidt pitched the complete game, giving up just one run on five hits, walking 1 and striking out 7.
In the semifinals, the Knights defeated the Maple Plain Diamond Devils 3-1. The Diamond Devils scored their run in the first inning, and in the fourth, TJ Johnson doubled, and Schmidt reached first on an error. A walk to Libra loaded the bases, and as pitcher Brady Johnson grounded to short, the Devils opted to throw out Libra at second, allowing Brady to reach first safely and for TJ to score the first run. After another walk to load the bases, a balk was called on the pitcher, allowing Schmidt to score. An insurance run came in the fifth, as catcher Trevor Johnson hit a solo home run, to put Hinckley up 3-1. The Johnson brothers led the offense. Trevor had a solo home run, TJ had a single, a double and a stolen base and Brady had an RBI. Libra and Perrotti also contributed hits. Brady started on the mound and got the win, pitching five innings, giving up just one run on four hits, walking 4 and striking out 6. TJ got the save, pitching the final two innings, and striking out 2.
In the championship game, the team fought hard, scoring an impressive seven runs, including a grand slam by Dylan Libra, but couldn’t overcome the offensive power of one of the toughest teams in the state, falling 19-7 in 5 innings. The Knights scored in the first inning, when Ausmus walked, Schmidt hit a ground-rule double, and Libra hit a sacrifice fly to get him home. Four more came in the third, when catcher Mac Storlie and Perrotti walked, Schmidt singled to load the bases, and Libra hit a grand slam home run. The Knights’ last two runs came in the fourth, on errors a wild pitches. But despite scoring 7 runs against a good team, it wouldn’t be enough to counter a 19-run day by Elko, which ended the game on the 10-run rule after 5 innings. Libra led the offense, going 2-2 with the grand slam and a sacrifice fly, tallying 5 RBI. Schmidt went 2-2 with a walk. Starting pitcher Dez LeTexier took the loss, with Max Sickler and Josh Thom each eating up some innings.
Before the tournament, the Knights earned a league win over the Chisago Lakes Bulldogs last Wednesday, 11-5. The Bulldogs got on the board in the first with a single and an RBI hit, which would have been a double, but as the throw came in from center to the plate too late to stop the run, the batter tried to stretch his hit into a triple. Catcher Trevor Johnson got the ball to third baseman Isaiah Hasz in time to make the tag. The Knights got 2 in the second, starting with a solo home run by Libra. A walk, single, and Trevor Johnson double made it 2-1. Chisago Lakes went ahead 4-2 in the third, on three hits and a couple of errors. But by the end of the fifth, Hinckley was back in front 6-4, on a mix of hits and errors. After a quiet fifth, the Bulldogs got a run in the sixth, but the Knights got it back and more in the bottom of the inning, thanks to three doubles and a pair of singles, to go up by the eventual final score of 11-5. Schmidt went 3-5, with a double and 3 RBI. Trevor, TJ and Brady Johnson, Libra, Hasz, and Max Sickler all had 2 hits, while Ausmus and Willis each had one, for a total of 17 hits among all 9 batters; six were doubles and Libra hit a solo home run. Willis and Sickler each had 2 RBI, Libra, and all three Johnson brothers had 1. Schmidt stole 2 bases, and Trevor and TJ Johnson each stole 1. Starting pitcher Willis earned the win in eight innings of work, giving up 4 earned runs on 7 hits, walking just 2 and striking out 7. Reliever Brady Johnson struck out all 3 batters he faced in the ninth.
On Wednesday, the Knights were scheduled to host the Braham Snappers at 7:30 p.m., with a score coming too late for press time. Watch for details in next week’s Hinckley News. The team travels to Quamba to play the Cubs on Friday, July 2 at 7:00 p.m. before taking the rest of the holiday weekend off, and will be in Isanti to play the Redbirds on Wednesday, July 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Follow the team online at HinckleyKnights.com, and on Facebook and Twitter @HinckleyKnights.