Langdon/Edmore/Munich clinches Region IV crown, heads to first state tournament in over decade
Every school member of the Lagodon/Edmore/Munich has gone to state at least once. Lagodon has one appearance in 2006, Edmore has won the tournament twice in 1980 and 1981, and Munich has won as a co-op in 1991 and 1992. However, they have never been to the tournament as L/E/M.
Over the past three years, the Cardinals have been one win away from breaking the drought, but have come up short. Most years it seemed like Park River was right there to shut them down. However, after being one step short so many times and having a season taken away due to COVID-19, there was something different about the 2021 season.
An undefeated season and their state dreams hung in the balance, not in Wednesday's championship game, but in Tuesday's semifinal game against Grafton. After digging themselves out of a 5-3 hole, winning the game 7-5, and outlasting the hot hand of Grafton's Andrew Votava. The Cardinals we're in a good spot heading into Wednesday's championship game. However, L/E/M wasn't expecting the game to be finished a little over an hour.
"We were expecting a battle coming into this game but we'll take it," senior pitcher Simon Romfo said. "Any way you can get to state, we'll take it."
After two tight innings in the championship game, seeing the Cardinals squeeze outa narrow 2-1 lead, the flood gates not just opened for L/E/M on offense but exploded in the third inning. Four Spoiler errors and the Cardinals' white-knuckle grasp of the momentum change saw them score eight runs in the third inning, racking up a 10-1 lead by the third out.
It's been a trend for L/E/M all year that when they find any sort of offensive window, they get everything out of it. The Cardinals had seven hits in the third, seeing big shots from senior Grant Romfo and Simon the nearly went over the wall. In addition to the bats, L/E/M's athletic ability on base allowed them to push every base they could. With errors piling up for Grafton, there wasn't much stopping the Cardinals in the in-field.
"We were taking good at-bats early and the biggest thing with our kids is that when we can get guys on, we have lots of team speed," Cardinals head coach Josh Krivarchka said. "We can then start moving the ball around and bunting. It's a tough combination to deal with, but our kids executed it well today."
With a 10-1 lead heading into the fourth, the Cardinals had a very real possibility of punching their ticket to Jamestown in the fifth inning. Simon would only allow one more run on one hit and freshman Mason Romfo, and senior Cooper Zimmer, would score to push the lead to 10. Simon would throw one last strike in the top of the fifth, sending L/E/M to its first baseball state tournament in over a decade with a 12-2 win over Grafton.
"It was kind of surprising it was over that quick," Krivarchka said. "You come in with some anxiety, but we came out and got after it. It was a great team win and I'm really proud of the guys."
One of the major keys that went into the result was mound play on both teams. Grafton had burned its No. 1 arm in the semifinals game while L/E/M was reserving its top arm in Simon until the championship. The Cardinals have show to have a deep and dangerous pitching unit this season, seeing guys like Simon, Grant and Zimmer stat hot and consistent all season.
After allowing three hits, a walk and one run in the first two innings, Simon was able to find his grounding to compliment the Cardinals surge on offense. Simon said that he felt the game opened up a little more for him on the mound after the eight run onslaught. In the finish he would strike out four, allowing two runs on four hits.
"They pitched their ace yesterday and we battled through that game, and we were feeling pretty good today," Simon said. "The energy in the dugout was great today and everyone was getting going. Everyone was just ready to make plays today and that's what kind of separated today's game from yesterday."
The big stage on the diamond is a new one for the Cardinals. The last school to go to state was Munich in 2009 as the Munich/Starkweather/Cando co-op. However, this isn't the first time that these players have had big game experience. L/E/M football has been to the Dakota Bowl four times in the last four years, winning the state title in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
From these big game experiences, the Cardinals have learned in the all around sports aspect of what they want and how to get it. said that the football and baseball teams hate to lose and losses, like the Park River regional championship one in 2019, have motivated L/E/M to where they are today.
"I think we always play better in big games," Krivarchka said. "Even when we did lose to Park River a few years ago in that region championship, they were probably the better team, but out kids competed so hard, and it hurt to lose. Our kids learn from those type of games. They just have that want to win and hate to lose. You can't teach that stuff."
The Cardinals have a week off before heading to Jamestown on June 3 for the state tournament. Seeding has not bee announced, but the teams that will be joining L/E/M are North Star, LaMoure-Litchville/Marion, Beulah and Renville County. The final two seeds will be decide today between Thompson and May-Port-C-G, and Velva/Drake-Anamoose and Bishop Ryan.
Until then, L/E/M is focused on continuing to better their overall game. Krivarchka said that they want to be playing their best ball by the time the tournament comes around. While the drive for a state title is still one, there is a sense of relief that the Cardinals were able to break through the barrier and head to state.
"There defiantly is a sense of relief that we were able to win today," Simon said. "When you lose three years in a row it's tough. We'll celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we start looking toward the state tournament."