Craig Pexa took some time to reflect on the 2019 baseball. A summer in which he was notified he's heading to the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame.

A summer in which the Cologne Hollanders advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 1972.

A summer in which the Hollanders, followed by hundreds of fans dressed in orange, won on back-to-back state weekends, reaching the third round of the Class C bracket.

A summer in which when the final out was a recorded, a 4-2 loss to Bemidji Sept. 1 in Delano, there were many people to thank for the incredible run. One that ended with Pexa presented with the sportsmanship trophy following Jordan's 4-2 win over Hutchinson on Labor Day.

There were the Hollander greats of the past. Their to support along the way.

There were the fans that made Municipal Park in Delano and Irish Stadium in Maple Lake feel like home on the hill.

There were the Hollander Helpers, the City of Cologne and many individuals that all played a part behind the scenes.

And there were the players. Once among cellar dwellers in the Crow River Valley League, Cologne is now one of the up-and-coming teams in the state.

"This is the beginning of some great things to come, and I can't wait until next year," Pexa said on Facebook.

A tough start put Cologne in too big of a hole against Ada draftee Ethan Opsahl, who seemed to get stronger as the game went on.

A dropped relay throw to first base on a double play attempt aided Bemidji in scoring three runs in the second inning. A third strike that bounced off Cologne catcher Tim Swanson allowed the final run to score.

One inning later, a pair of walks and a two-out single made it 4-0.

Christian Johnson, the winning pitcher the first two weekends for the Hollanders, worked through control issues early to pitch eight innings, striking out seven batters.

Cologne scored two runs in the third inning after Joey Lilya and Zack Nelson reached on infield singles, a 1-out Casey Clemensen single pulling the Hollanders within 4-1.

Carter Clemensen followed with an RBI-hit at 4-2 before Opsahl recorded the final two outs to minimize the damage.

Cologne had just three more hits over the final six innings, only one, Tanner Luebke, reaching second base.

Lilya finished with two of the Hollanders' six hits. Opsahl struck out 12 batters in the complete game for Bemidji.

Pexa called it a "year to remember." It certainly was.


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