The Emo Bulldogs finished with a 2-2 record at the second qualifying tournament in Fargo, N.D. last weekend, which wasn’t good enough to earn a berth to the North American Fastball Association championships coming up in Albuquerque, N.M.
The Bulldogs were edged out by a team from Geneva, Mn. in the 10-team tournament, meaning the Emo squad’s only chance of heading south is if Geneva elects not to go.
Emo suffered a crucial 7-5 loss to Geneva in their first game at Fargo, falling behind early on a two-run, first-inning homer of starter Brooks Swanson.
Then after Emo shortstop Brent Tookenay belted a solo shot in the third to slice the lead to 2-1, Geneva broke the game open with an opposite field, wind-aided grand slam for a commanding 6-1 lead.
Still, Emo didn’t quit, pulling to within 6-4 when Jake Allen hit a three-run shot in the bottom of the fourth. Geneva added an unearned run in the sixth but Allen went deep again to make it 7-5.
That was as close as Emo would get.
Tookenay said the loss to Geneva was a crucial one to start the tournament, and was compounded even further because each team played one less game than originally scheduled due to the threat of rain and thunderstorms.
“The game against Geneva was a big one because it was head-to-head and they beat us,” he remarked. “They came in a game ahead of us so we had to beat them.”
Facing a must-win situation in their next game against previously winless Villard, the Bulldogs overcame a disastrous third inning to pull out an exciting 8-7 win.
Warren Voth started on the mound for Emo but gave up four runs, and left two men on base, when he was lifted for Lonnie Lundmark in the third.
He didn’t fare much better, promptly surrendering a three-run homer to leave the Bulldogs down 7-0.
But Emo began its rally with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third, then Dennis Mounk got into the long-ball act—belting a three-run homer in the fourth and another three-run shot in the sixth to complete the comeback.
Swanson came on and struck out the final batter in the top of the seventh to record the save.
Allen, in his first year with Emo after playing for Sight & Sound, said it was a gutsy win. “After that first game, we could have just quit but we kept plugging away,” he noted.
But Emo’s bats were kept quiet in their next game against Happy Chef (Mankato), which had finished the first qualifier last month with a 4-1 record.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first but Happy Chef roared back with a three-run homer in the second frame.
Warren Voth answered that with a solo shot in the bottom of the inning to make it 3-2 but disaster struck in the third inning once again as Happy Chef scored five times (several of them unearned) for an 8-2 lead.
After they scored three more in the fifth for an 11-2 advantage, the game was called on a seven-run mercy rule.
That forced Emo to win their last game and hope Geneva lost its final one.
The Bulldogs did their part by knocking off Junkers (Mankato) 5-2, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first sparked by Allen’s solo shot. Then up 3-1 in the third, Tookenay drew a walk and came home on an RBI double by Bill Duncan.
Junkers answered with a run in the top of the sixth but Emo got that one right back in the bottom of the inning when Mounk singled home Duncan from second.
Swanson struck out 14 in earn the win.
But while Geneva also won its final game to knock the Bulldogs out of the NAFA championships, Emo came away pleased with its performance against some of the top teams in Minnesota.
“We played some good ball against some good teams,” said Tookenay. “Hitting’s never really been a problem with our team. Everyone hit the ball, even with the different strike zone.
“Our guys did very well.”
Tookenay also said because Emo had just a few players with experience playing at that level, many of the younger players came through with some big weekends.
“It was a good start for something we want to keep for a long time and to get the young guys committed to,” he reasoned.
Allen, in his first year playing at that level against American teams, said it definitely was a higher calibre of ball compared to the Rainy River District Fastball League.
“It’s like two steps up. It’s really, really organized and everyone is on the same page,” said Allen, who finished with three home runs in four games.
“I’m satisfied we played well against some good teams but what I like was the fact we always kept a good attitude even when we were down,” he stressed.
The Bulldogs will continue playing in the RRDFL, are also are slated to play in a tournament in Rice Lake, Wis. later this month.