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Region 16C baseball: After 4-7 season, Carlos is the last Resorters team standing

On paper, the Carlos Cougars baseball team probably shouldn't be playing this weekend.

The Cougars were 4-7 through the regular season of the Resorters League, which put them last in the East Division behind Sauk Centre, Alexandria and Long Prairie. The Region 16C Tournament was a chance to regroup for this team, and the Cougars have taken advantage with three straight wins to be the last team standing from the Resorters league in the playoffs.

"Timely hitting throughout the lineup has been a huge part (of this run)," the Cougars' Clarke Comer said. "We have been the away team and have been able to score first, allowing our pitchers to attack the strike zone early, which gives them the opportunity to pitch deep into games. We also have had a different person step up with a clutch at-bat or a big defensive play in each of our last four games."

The Cougars lost to the Osakis Hawks in the playoff opener on July 27. Since then, they have won elimination games against Urbank, Long Prairie and Alexandria.

Carlos plays Dent in Dent at 8 p.m. on Friday for the right to take on Pelican Rapids on Saturday at 2 p.m. The winner of the latter game will earn a trip to the state tournament and a matchup against Fergus Falls in the region championship at 5 p.m. on Saturday night. The top two teams from the region make state.

"Frankly, we know nothing about the other three teams left in the tournament except that they must be solid teams in order to make it this far," Carlos player/coach Landon Olson said. "Our sole focus is on keeping our season alive with facing off against Dent on Friday night. We need to continue to play within ourselves and keep our mentality of being there to complete the job."

The Cougars knocked out Alexandria this past weekend after taking a 2-0 lead in the first.

"I could go up and down our lineup and say how every one of our guys contributed to our win," Olson said. "However, one that really stands out from the rest is Brady Burgau. He kept the Alexandria bats at bay throughout the afternoon. He threw within himself and trusted our defense to make the plays behind him, which we were able to do. I believe every player reached base on Sunday, as well, showing that our bats came alive at the right time this year."

Burgau, who was an integral part of the Alexandria Cardinals run to the state tournament in 2017, has given the Cougars a late boost this season after playing in the junior college ranks for St. Cloud Technical and Community College this past spring.

"His arrival has given us some extra maneuverability and an additional arm," Olson said. "He has thrown in three of our biggest games this year and has gone the distance in all three. He has both wins against Alexandria and the win against Urbank. Having his bat in the lineup and his defensive ability in the infield has been instrumental in our recent success, as well."

Olson pointed to multiple keys to Carlos' late run. Eliminating errors that led to big innings for opponents early in the season has helped.

"Other things that I think have helped us on this late run is the mentorship that Ryan Burgau and Larry Olson have provided our team," Olson said. "Between the two of them, they have close to 100 years of baseball experience and that knowledge is invaluable. Helping keep us level throughout the game has been huge."

Starting pitching has also stepped up. In addition to Burgau, Mark Hillesheim threw a complete-game shutout in the playoff win over Long Prairie.

It's all added up to the Cougars surprising some teams in these playoffs. They will try to keep it going back in Dent starting on Friday night.

"Our goal at the beginning of every season is to be the last Resorters team standing and make it to state," Olson said. "At the beginning of the year, most people would have said those goals were outrageous. Yet here we are, the last Resorters team standing with a chance to complete our second goal of playing in the state tournament."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229
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