Where were you in 1972?

For everyone on the Cologne roster minus manager Craig Pexa, none were even a thought when the Hollanders last made the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament.

Of Saturday's starting nine, Anthony Brenner, 32, was the oldest, born in 1986.

Even Pexa was just a young lad in 1972, having moved to Cologne the month after the state tournament, the age of 13.

Forty-seven years of drought from state baseball. Now that's over.

Cologne defeated Watertown 7-3 and top seed Carver 12-5 on Aug. 2 and 3, clinching the first of four spots into state in the Region 7C Tournament at Carver's Woody Swanson Field.

"I'm not sure gas was a nickel. Maybe a quarter. ... This is exciting. This is a great group of kids. We have a few veterans, but most of these guys are kids," Pexa said. "We love that we're in, but we're not done yet. We want to go for that No. 1 seed. We're going to enjoy this one tonight, but we have some baseball still to play next weekend."

A slow start against Watertown in the playoff opener at Fritz Field, Cologne got off to a fast start against Carver.

A 3-2 lead through three innings, the Hollanders put up seven runs in the fourth at-bat, gaining a 10-2 lead. Of those 10 runs, eight came with two outs.

"I told the guys last night, in the sixth inning, we had no emotion. I told them we needed to pick it up, we were only down two runs, we were in the ball game. And then we score four. Today we were talking right away, We came ready to play right away. We got some hits, scored some runs early and I think that good start was the difference," Pexa said.

A two-run double from Carter Clemensen, who reached base in his first three plate appearances, scoring all three times, extended the advantage to 5-2. Following a fielder's choice for a run, Tim Swanson collected his second of three hits in the game for an RBI and 8-2 lead.

Tanner Luebke knocked in two more runs off Carver relief pitcher Jack Schnettler and Cologne was cooking up eight runs.

Following five innings of work from Torben Urdahl, Alex Eichner got nine outs in relief before Kyle Brazil closed the door, recording the final three outs to start the celebration.

It was the third win in three games versus Carver this season for the Hollanders.

"We battled. We had so many hits with two outs. Found ways to extend at-bats and win them. That was huge," the manager said.

The middle of Cologne's batting order did the damage early. A Carter Clemensen single, Cole Pengilly double, and two-run single from Brazil gave the Hollanders a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Swanson's bloop single allowed Carter Clemensen to score a third run in the third inning.

Carver had opportunities early on as well, settling for solo runs in the second inning on a Kyle Dalton RBI-single and the third inning on a double play that scratched across a run.

Late in the game, Dalton's double off the right-field fence plated Andrew Weber from first base with Cody Christensen and Jack Mattson each adding an RBI-single.

Carver, with the loss, can still qualify for its third consecutive trip to state with a win against the winner of Sunday's elimination game in No. 2 seed Glencoe and No. 6 seed Brownton.

The Black Sox are scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 8 in Cologne.

Meanwhile, Cologne, assured a top-three seed from the region into the state tournament, plays the winner of Sunday's semifinal between No. 3 seed Young America and No. 7 seed Winsted at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10 in Carver.

Cologne, trailing Watertown 3-1, awoke in the sixth inning, singles from Casey and Carter Clemensen setting the stage for a two-run triple from Pengilly to tie the game at three.

A sacrifice fly from Brazil gave the Hollanders a lead at 4-3 in the playoff opener through six innings.

Hits from Luebke, Pengilly and Brazil pushed the advantage out to 6-3 before a leaping acrobatic avoid of the tag from Zack Nelson made it 7-3 Cologne in the eighth.

Casey Clemensen (six innings, win) and Luebke (three-inning save) pitched the Hollanders to victory.

Cologne is expected to get back its top pitcher in Christian Johnson for the rest of the post-season as well. Johnson left three weeks ago to play in the Northwoods League with Kalmazoo.

"For us to get him back, he was such a big part of our season, to have him, Torben, Casey, and Zack, who all started big games for us, I really like where we're at for next week," Pexa said.

Sunday's action features two elimination games at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and a state qualifier contest at 3 p.m.


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