WCH 21 Baseball

The 2021 Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament in Waconia, Chaska and Hamburg runs Aug. 20-22, Aug. 27-29, and Sept. 3-6.

One team, Sobieski, was making its fourth state championship game appearance in eight years. The other, Watertown, last played in, and won, a Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament championship in 1951.

With more than 1,500 paid spectators packing Lions Field in Waconia for the traditional Class C title game, pitchers Adam Prehn of Plato and Caleb Strack of Randall, both draftees, took the championship into the 11th inning scoreless.

Collin Eckman and Ben Hanowski each drove in runs, a wild pitch plating the second run, as Sobieski completed its state tournament run through three weekends, a 3-0 win over Watertown Sept. 6.

The Skis were last champions in 2014, runner-up in 2016 and 2018 before being moved up to Class B for two years in 2019 and 2020.

Blink and you'll miss Sobieski, a town with around 200 people southwest of Little Falls. It can only be reached by county road. This little town does baseball, qualifying for the 21st time in the state tournament this year, a streak of 10 straight appearances while in Class C.

After years of leaning on one arm, Tyler Jendro, who threw a state-record 41 2/3 innings, winning all six state games in 2014, also a record, Sobieski took a new approach in 2021. They spread around all 47 innings to three draftees from the Victory League.

Chad Weiss of the Pierz Lakers earned a win and a save in 12-plus innings of work. Ethan Branum of the Fort Ripley Rebels pitched into the ninth inning in a semifinal win over Alexandria.

Caleb Strack, though, was the real story. The real MVP.

The Randall Cubs left-hander worked all 11 innings in the championship, scattering seven hits with three walks, battling out of every jam, finishing with 10 strikeouts in the complete-game effort.

Strack, in 35 innings pitched, four starts, was 4-0 with a 0.51 earned run average (two earned runs) with 43 strikeouts.

For the tournament, Waconia-Chaska-Hamburg had 21,013 paid spectators, the most since 1959. The attendance ranks No. 10 all-time, records kept from 1938 and on.

Chaska, with the tournament's largest single-day attendance, on back-to-back days Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, ended up with 9,073 fans over the three weeks.

Waconia drew 8,738 fans with Hamburg finishing with nearly 3,100 fans as the third site, hosting just one game the final weekend.

The 2022 state tournament is being hosted by Faribault, Dundas and Miesville.