Hayfield is going to state amateur baseball tournament

In just its second season in existence, the Hayfield Heat amateur baseball team has qualified for the state Class C tournament.

The Heat open state tournament play at Glencoe on Sunday at 11 a.m. against Hanska.

"The need was there for a baseball team in this town and I knew all we needed was someone serious to start up the team," team manager Kasey Krekling said. "I took that responsibility upon myself and I'm sure glad I did.

"Most of our team is 25 years old or younger, so we should have a very good team for years to come."

Although they're young, many of the Heat played with the Hayfield A's in the early 2000's. When that team disbanded, they played in Austin or Rochester. Then Krekling decided it'd be nice for the community to have a team again — and to have less travel.


"It started with me making numerous phone calls to get people committed to playing with the team," he recalled. "Once I got a good number of 15 I knew that I had a good chance of making this happen."

They applied to the Twin Rivers League and were accepted. The name came by way of a contest among Hayfield Elementary School fourth- through sixth-graders. The Heat raise a lot of their funds through a youth baseball tournament they sponsor and staff.

The Heat played a 20-game schedule last year and 25 this year.

The Heat did it the hard way, but in the end they earned a spot in the state tournament via the Region 5B tournament. The Heat got to the 5B meet by advancing in the league playoffs; they lost in the first round of the regional in an ugly game, 12-0 to Owatonna as Hayfield committed six errors.

That meant that Hayfield would need to win three straight games to make it to state. The first game in the loser bracket was against the Rochester Roadrunners. The Heat managed only two hits, but that was enough for one run, and Hayfield pitcher Aaron Krejci pitched a stellar game as Hayfield advance with a 1-0 win.

The next game matched Hayfield against Winona, a team that the Heat had already lost to three times this year. But a six-run fourth inning put the game away early as they cruised to a 9-4 win.

Then came a rematch with Owatonna. The game looked early as though it would be another lopsided loss as Owatonna took a 3-0 lead in the first, thanks in part to three Hayfield errors. Hayfield settled down though, and pitcher Weston Hanson kept the Owatonna batters off balance the rest of the game.

Although Owatonna did not score again, Hayfield struggled with scoring runs; it was 3-1 entering the eighth inning. Then Travis Kauffman led off the inning with a double off the wall. After a groundout, Tyler Nelson singled to score Kauffman and cut the deficit to one. Shawn Palmer then  bunted Nelson to second base. Craig Selk then pulled a single over the first baseman to score Nelson and tie the game.


Josh Evans then singled up the middle to put runners on first and second as Tyler Krekling came to the plate. Krekling took an outside pitch down the right-field line, scoring Mark Evjen (who was running for Selk) and Evans to put Hayfield up 5-3.

Owatonna finally got the third out but the damage was done.

Hanson pitched a perfect top of the ninth inning and the celebration was on.

"The whole game we just could not come up with that timely hit to score runs and it looked as though our bad first inning would be our demise," Kasey Krekling said. "Then the crazy eighth inning happened, and just like that, we were heading to state.

"This is a great chance for our team to go up to state and show what a small town team from southeast Minnesota can do."

If the Heat win Sunday, they advance to the second round on Aug. 27, at 5 p.m. against either Belle Plaine or Miltona. A win in that game would put the Heat into the eight-team field that begins the double-eliminaton phase of the tournament on Aug. 28 and concludes on Sept. 5.

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