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Plato heads to state as region champs

With a pair of weekend victories over Young America, the Plato Blue Jays are headed to their fifth consecutive state tournament as the Region 7C champions.
Plato, which earlier cruised to a Crow River Valley League championship with a 17-1 league record, increased their winning streak to 18 games by finishing off a perfect 4-0 regional run.
“All season long, these guys have really worked hard,” Blue Jays manager Adam Dammann said. “We had some things to work through earlier this season, but these guys really have confidence in each other.”
After blasting Young America 10-0 in the winner’s bracket final on Saturday, Aug. 11, Plato rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Cardinals 6-2 in the regional championship round on Sunday, Aug. 12 and claim the 7C title.
Sunday’s game was the second regional matchup that saw Plato having to rally to claim victory. The Blue Jays also trailed Green Isle three times in the early innings before coming back to snatch a 5-4 win in the regional second round.
“These guys never give up. It’s been like that all season,” Dammann said. “These guys are really here for each other and believe that they are going to win.”
Winning was nary in doubt in Saturday’s matchup against Young America. Plato nearly finished the game before it started with six runs in the first inning before pushing its lead to 8-0 in the second inning. Two more runs in the fifth meant an early ending to the contest with the Blue Jays winning 10-0 in seven frames.
Starting pitcher Chris Odegaard cruised to the complete-game victory with five hits and no walks over seven innings with eight strikeouts.
Adam Prehn and Zack Stockman led the winning side with two RBI apiece, while Nolan Lepel and Prehn scored twice apiece. Six Plato players had two hits each as part of the Blue Jays’ blistering 14-hit attack.
The Cardinals recovered from the thrashing to defeat Waconia in the one-loss bracket final. That win advanced Young America to a rematch with Plato in the championship round, with two victories needed to claim the 7C title.
It was a tall order, considering the Blue Jays have lost just once all season, but Sunday’s game looked good for Young America early on.
The Cardinals pushed across lone tallies in the third and fourth innings against Prehn, who started for Plato. In the meantime, Young America starter Isaac Hormann took a perfect game into the fifth inning.
Prehn broke up the perfecto with a one-out single, but that would be the only Blue Jays hit through six innings. Then, the Plato bats came alive.
Chris Odegaard led off the seventh with a single. He was pushed to third base on an ensuing double by Matt Odegaard. With one out, Lepel knotted the score at 2-2 by driving home both Odegaards with a two-run single.
The score remained tied into the bottom of the eighth, when Tyler Lang smacked a bases-loaded double to drive in the Odegaards and Kyle Panning to stake Plato to a 5-2 lead. Lang himself scored on a balk to bring the count to the eventual final of 6-2.
Prehn went the distance, scattering 10 hits over nine innings with two walks and three strikeouts. Lang’s three RBI led the squad, with Lepel driving in a pair. Matt and Chris Odegaard each scored twice, as did Prehn.
While Plato celebrated the regional title, there was still business to be done. Via the championship, the Blue Jays earned the No. 1 pick in the three-round draft to fill out rosters for the upcoming state tournament.
With a pair of teams – Watertown and Green Isle – surprisingly not finding themselves among the four regional state qualifying teams, Plato found itself able to stock up on a wealth of pitching talent.
“It’s massive to get that first pick,” Dammann said. “This year with Watertown and Green Isle not making it to state, the pitching was very deep.”
With the first overall pick, the Blue Jays took Watertown pitching ace Pat Tschida. With their second and third selections, Plato brought aboard a pair of rivals in Mac Zachow and Cody Hallahan of Green Isle.
“We got three class act guys,” Dammann said. “We drafted Pat Tschida last year, Mac Zachow is someone we have huge respect for and Cody Hallahan used to play for us, so we know what he can do.”
Dammann said he is not concerned with any dugout angst by bringing in two members of the Irish – long known as Plato’s top rival.
“The Plato/Green Irish rivalry is massive – one of the biggest and oldest in the state,” he said. “But even though it is a heated rivalry, it is one of absolute respect. We were very excited when Mac and Cody were available.”
After losing in the first round of the 2017 state tournament, Plato is one of the favorites to win the Class C title this season. Dammann said the label of favorite is a confidence builder, as it was in 2015 when favored Plato won its last state championship.
“However, we learned some lessons the hard way last year when we went out and beat ourselves against Sobieski,” he said. “We still have got to go out and play.”
Plato has a bye for the first round of the tournament this weekend, but will keep sharp with practice and taking in some of the initial games of the tourney.
“We’ve got to stay hearty,” Dammann said. “We will get in some work this week and next week and are definitely going to go watch our possible opponents play each other.”
The Blue Jays will play the winner of this Sunday’s opening-round game between Bluffton and Luxemburg at 2:30 p.m. in New Prague. Plato is scheduled to take on Sunday’s victor in a second-round game at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 26 in Shakopee.
Dammann said he hopes to see the “Blue Wave” of Plato fans showing up in Shakopee, as well as the remainder of what is hoped to be a long state tournament run.
“Our fans have been behind us the entire season, both home and away,” he said. “Most of our team, except for two players, is from the local area and school district. People know these players and know we have a real good team, but we couldn’t do what we do without the support we receive and I can’t thank our fans enough.”