Freeport State Bank Claims Minnesota Men’s Fastpitch State Championship

Written by Bob on August 7th, 2016

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Freeport State Bank from front row left to right, Dan Toenyan, Kevin Welle, Mike Mayers, Travis Atkinson and Craig Timp. Back row from left, Adam Moorman, Tyler Thomes, Cody Imdieke, Joe Hennen, Jonathan Linn and Glen Van Drehle.

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. – No words are sweeter music to a fastpitch team, or so difficult to earn as the right to proudly proclaim: “We are state champions!”

Freeport State Bank gained that right with a hard-fought 6-5 victory over Corvuso Meats / Heimy’s Place of New Germany in the Minnesota Sports Federation Class D Men’s State Tournament.

State Bank rolled through the tournament’s nine-team field to finish with a 5-1 record at Caswell Park in North Mankato on July 31.

“I have been playing in the state tournament for 15 years, and our pitcher (Joe Hennen) has been going for probably 20 years and we’ve never won,” said co-manager and outfielder Craig Timp. “This is so awesome.”

    NOT TO BE DENIED

The only stumble was an 8-0 loss to Corvuso / Heimy’s in the first championship game, forcing a second game since each team had one loss. But State Bank took a collective deep breath after that humbling defeat and came back determined in the deciding game.

“After that embarrassment, it put a spark under us,” Timp said.

That spark burst into a flame as State Bank took a 6-0 lead, but Corvuso / Heimy’s fought back in the later innings to make the game a nail-biter. But the key element that was steadfast all tournament saved the game for State Bank: Their gloves.

Twice the defense came up with huge plays to kill rallies and save runs. With one out in the second inning and runners on first and third, first baseman Mike Mayers made a huge play to save at least a run.

“A line drive was hit at Mike,” Timp said. “He dove for it, caught it and touched first base, and ended the inning with the double play. It was a big momentum swing for us.”

    GAME-SAVING CATCH

Again in the sixth, another great defensive gem halted Corvuso / Heimy’s comeback with runners parked at first and third and two outs. This time, right-fielder Adam Moorman stepped into the spotlight.

“They hit a shot to right-field and Adam goes in a dead sprint back after it,” Timp said. “He dove and laid out, catching the ball at the base of the fence. It was the big play of the tournament and a highlight reel play.”

State Bank marched through the tournament reeling off 10-6, 9-3 and 13-2 victories to reach the winner’s bracket final where they beat Corvuso / Heimy’s 5-1.

    THE HORSE

Through all those innings – and in the two title games – just one man toed the pitching rubber: 42-year-old Joe Hennen. And he was all the pitching State Bank needed.

“He was definitely the MVP of our team,” Timp said. “He’s got very good control, throws hard, and has a good rise ball. When it’s moving, he’s tough on batters. (Teams) would load the bases, or put runners at first and third, and he would take a deep breath, refocus and get himself out of trouble.”

    CLUTCH HITTING

Offensively the ball club had some outstanding performances, led by Mike Mayer, who’s on base percentage topped the .500 mark, Timp said.

“Between his hits, walks and getting hit seven times in six games, he had a great tournament. In Sunday morning’s game (5-1 winner’s bracket final), he had a two-run home run, and he hit a ball off the fence that drove in a run in the championship.”

Also stellar with the bat were Cody Imdieke and Glen Van Drehle, who came up with key hits at clutch times.

    SMALL TOWN, BIG LEAGUE

State Bank plays in the 15-team Freeport League, consisting of upper and lower divisions of which the bankers hold an 8-4 record in the top division.

A tournament team? A traveling team? No, said co-manager Kevin Welle. Just a roster of local guys from Freeport, a small town of 600 near St. Cloud, that have been playing for State Bank for about 12 years.

“State Bank is a great sponsor,” said Welle, 26, who shares time DH and catching. “Without Jim Hemker (State Bank owner) sponsoring us we wouldn’t be able to play.”

Welle began playing fastpitch at 15 and is proud that the Freeport League has the largest number of teams playing league ball in the state. A league in which a band of local guys played their best fastpitch of the season to win a state championship.

    STRONG ARM AND GLOVES BRING HOME THE TITLE

“We peaked at the right time,” Welle said. “We picked each other up, a few guys got hot, and our defense and pitching was our strength. Most teams had two pitchers, but Joe was our horse this weekend and we made big plays behind him.”

And that combination earned Freeport State Bank the right to call itself, “state champion.”

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