East Ridge, Woodbury, Cottage Grove compete in district playoffs
WOODBURY — It two completely opposite games, but the same outcome for the East Ridge VFW team.
The district playoffs started for East Ridge, Woodbury and Cottage Grove this weekend and the teams didn't disappoint with some strong games to start the opening rounds.
"It was great to see this team stay strong towards the later part of the game," said Jereme Quinnell, East Ridge's coach. "I'm really proud of this team and being able to get the win in the end."
The playoffs started on Friday night with wins from all three teams to advance to the double elimination bracket.
Woodbury earned a 4-2 win over West St. Paul, while Cottage Grove finished with a 6-2 win over Oakdale. East Ridge played Rice St. in the opening round and had a dominating performance from Blake Ritzer on the mound as well as bats coming alive and scoring seven runs.
The Raptors ended the game with a 7-0 victory and advanced to the double elimination.
"My fastball was working really well and I was able to hit my locations around the plate," Ritzer said. "I need to work on my off-speed for next time, but I had a strong defense behind me to back me up."
The Raptors had five different players scoring an RBI in Friday's game as well as four players scoring at least one run in the game. That diversity of scoring helped East Ridge in its second game against Cottage Grove on Sunday morning.
Once again, five players scored at least one RBI in the game and six different players scored a run. This type of offensive production allowed East Ridge to win 7-5 over Cottage Grove, but the game went back and forth for many innings.
"It's a great confidence boost to know that we can win these types of games," said East Ridge pitcher Zach Thompson. "Hopefully, this can help us in the next few games because we know there won't be any easy games in this tournament."
Thompson was one of two pitchers in today's game against Cottage Grove. Blake Pitmon started the game for the Raptors and went 3.2 innings allowing four runs and striking out four batters. Thompson came in for relief and pitched the other 3.1 innings giving up one run and striking out three batters.
Quinnell said he was happy with how the two pitched on Sunday and worked together to get the win.
On the other side, Cottage Grove had Lex Lindow on the mound for the entire six innings. He gave up seven runs, but struck out two batters.
Cottage Grove coach John McGowan was happy with Lindow's performance and his locations. Some of those locations weren't called in the game, but he wants Lindow to continue attacking the plate like he did on Sunday.
The Cottage Grove team relied on Jack Nelson for offensive production as he earned three RBI's and was 2-for-2 with a double and triple as well as two sacrifice opportunities to move the runner over or score the runner.
"I was seeing the ball really well today and was able to knock in a few runs," Nelson said.
Cottage Grove will heading to Woodbury High School on Monday after the Royals lost to Roseville on Sunday with a 7-0 final score. Woodbury's coach Nick Gehrt is worried about the mentality of win or go home, but rather just being consistent with play.
"We need to come out with consistency from top to bottom," Gehrt said. "We're not giving up until state, so it doesn't matter to us. We just keep focusing on winning."
Woodbury and Cottage Grove will be playing each other to continue playing this VFW season on Monday at 3:30 p.m. at Woodbury High School.
East Ridge will continue in the winner's bracket and will play Roseville on Monday at 3:30 p.m. at East Ridge High School.
All of these teams have seen each other at least once and sometimes more than that this season before the playoffs. Therefore, all of them know how each team will come out and perform.
With the playoffs happening, the coaches are facing challenges of coaching these players both physically and mentally. Health is the number one thing on the coaches' minds and if someone is hurting or not feeling good, these coaches are making lineup changes to accommodate those situations.
So far, they haven't faced much of the physical injuries, but they do deal with the mental side often. The players are thinking of many different situations during a game and it can get overwhelming, so these coaches are trying to make sure the game comes simple and it doesn't take too much of a mental toll on the individual player.
"The players already understand what's at stake regarding the playoffs," McGowan said. "The coaches need to make sure that they're enjoying the game and try to get those little things off their mind."
Depending on what happens Monday, either Woodbury or Cottage Grove will be out of the playoffs and the other will continue to play another game. Whether East Ridge wins or loses its game on Monday, the Raptors will still be playing another game since it's double elimination.
The three teams are excited to see how things go on Monday and will be ready to play their best games with a spot at the state tournament as each of their goals.