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DL Angels earn second straight Region 14C title

Entering the Region 14C playoffs with a .500 record and as a low seed, the realistic expectation for the Detroit Lakes Angels was to just qualify for the Class C Minnesota State Tournament.

Well, throw reality out the window -- the Angels charged over all their regional competition to win their second-consecutive Region 14C championship and head into the state tournament winning four games in a row, with a deceptive 18-14 overall record.

"That's pretty good for a team in its second year and making the state playoffs both times," said Angels' co-manager Phil Kirchner. "Baseball is a funny game, in that it's a streaky game. We may be entering the state with probably one of the worst records, but we are playing very good baseball."

The Angels will open the Class C state playoffs in Chaska Thursday at 6 p.m. against Region 16C runner-up Fergus Falls -- a team which defeated Detroit Lakes earlier this season.

Many things are coming together for DL, which includes a complete batting order one through nine and a deep pitching staff -- led by ace Matt Olson, who was named Region 14C MVP.

"Most of the season -- due to injuries -- we had guys playing out of position, and the biggest thing is we weren't playing good defense," Kirchner said. "Now, we've been getting good pitching, some timely hits and most of all, playing good defense."

Olson pitched for the victory in the region championship game over the home team Carlos by the score of 7-3.

The DL ace went five innings, leaving with a 6-1 lead, with Bertha draftee Matt Hartung finishing off Carlos. Olson finished by scattering four hits and striking out three, while Hartung threw the final four innings, allowing two runs and only two hits.

The top of the Angels' order pelted Carlos's pitching, as the top four hitters went a combined 8-19, including a two-run homer by Noah Johnson in the top of the first inning.

In the second inning the Angels picked up their third run, as Chris Engberg started the inning with a double. He stole third base and scored on a Taylor Fuhs single.

Carlos cut the lead to 3-1 in the fourth inning, as Joe Snaza singled off of Olson to start the inning and Thor Tripp followed with a double to right center, scoring Snaza.

The Angels picked up a back-breaking three runs in the fifth to go up 6-1.

Johnson singled with one out, and Olson followed with a double to left center to score Johnson. Engberg then walked to put runners at first and second.

Bryan Buhr followed by reaching on an error to load the bases. Perham draftee Andy Kratzke grounded back to the pitcher, who forced Olson out at home.

Jake Kiebke reached on another Carlos error, with both Engberg and Buhr scoring on the play.

The Cougars came back to score two runs in the bottom of the eighth off of Angels reliever Hartung, who is a draftee from Bertha.

DL added some extra insurance in the top of the ninth on a Kiebke single, to score Hartung.

The lead-off batter, Fuhs went 2-5, while Terry Haus was 1-5, Kirchner 2-5 and Johnson led the way with a 3-4 day.

Kirchner credits Fuhs for setting the table and tone for the Angels as the team's lead-off batter.

"Taylor is leading the team in batting (.390) and stolen bases (17), so he's been a great spark to start us off," Kirchner said. "Nick Omberg has been our RBI leader (24) and has been hitting the gaps. Our top of the order has been solid and the entire lineup one through nine has produced."

Add in Engberg's solid numbers as the No. 9 hitter, and the Angels are looking like a state-playoff team.

The infield had to shift a little after the injury to shortstop Wade Whitworth, with third baseman Matt Nustad sliding to short and first baseman Terry Haus exchanging corners to third and Olson -- when not pitching -- manning first.

Omberg has supplied good leather at second base all season, with Fuhs returning to catcher, where he is one of the top defensive players in the area.

"Our defense has been key in the playoffs, and our guys are all veterans there," Kirchner added.

The pitching will be deep in the state playoffs, as well, with the additions of Hartung and Wadena-Deer Creek draftee Jordan Wohlwend.

Olson has a 2.91 ERA with a 6-4 record and will start Thursday against Fergus Falls.

"You have to give everyone credit on the team, because when things weren't going all too well during the season, this team hung together and stayed positive," Kirchner said.

With the Angels keeping the faith, that was yet another key into their second trip to the state playoffs.

Angel stats

Region 14C championship at Carlos, Sunday, Aug. 10.

Angels 210 030 001 - 7 12 2

Carlos 000 100 020 - 3 6 2

Detroit Lakes

AB R H Bi

T. Fuhs 5 0 2 1

T. Haus 5 0 1 0

P. Kirchner 5 1 2 0

N. Johnson 4 2 2 2

M. Mooney 0 0 0 0

M. Olson 5 0 2 1

C. Engberg 2 2 1 1

B. Buhr 3 1 0 0

C. Griffin 0 0 0 0

M. Hartung 1 1 0 0

A. Kratzke 4 0 0 0

J. Kiebke 4 0 1 1

Totals 38 7 11 6

HR: N. Johnson.

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-k): DL - M. Olson (WP), M. Hartung (SV)...Carlos: J. Luescke (LP).

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