Kingsmen knock off favorites en route to capturing Midget American crown

A group of young men from the local area did themselves proud at the recent Midget American Division Clackamas County Junior Baseball Tournament, battling back after a winners bracket loss to win the tournament.

The Rex Putnam Kingsmen entered the eight-team tournament for 9- and 10-year-olds as the No. 5 seed, and they had to defeat both the top-seeded team from North Marion and the winners bracket champion from Canby twice in order to claim the spoils. They played six games in the three-day tournament, including three back-to-back games — beginning at 8 a.m. — on the final day.

“I was absolutely choked up [when we won],” said Putnam coach Mike Geertsen. “It was totally unexpected. I told the kids, ‘You kids don’t realize, winning three games straight like we just did, it just doesn’t happen.’ [Our winning this tournament] was a huge surprise. I was happy just to get by our play-in game.”

Geertsen’s Kingsmen defeated Silverton 8-5 in a play-in game played on July 18, two days before their first game of the state SUBMITTED PHOTO
SUBMITTED PHOTO - Putnam Kingsmen pose proudly with their championship hardware from the 2012 Midget American Junior Baseball county tournament. Pictured are: (front row, from left) Derek Douangphrachanh, Korbyn Amundson, Robby Collman, Nick Geertsen, John Foglio, Alex Mehigan and Brett Harrison; (second row) Myles Gredvig-Hollins, Carson Golden and John Irish; and (back) Dakota Reber, coach Jason Reber, head coach Mike Geertsen, coach Dan Golden and coach Mike Harrison.

They followed that up with a 15-4 win over fourth-seeded Tualatin and a 10-0 “upset” of the top-seeded North Marion Huskies, before losing to Canby 7-3 in the July 21 winners bracket final.

They then beat North Marion a second time 11-1, before winning the tournament through back-to-back wins over Canby, 15-9 and 6-5. The final three games were played between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on July 22.

The top-seeded North Marion team had earned the county tournament’s top seed by going 19-1 in league.

“We met North Marion [in league] in our last game, when it really didn’t matter [an 18-10 loss] and treated it like a practice game,” said Geertsen. “I gave all of the guys lots of playing time, but I didn’t let [North Marion] see my number one pitcher, Dakota Reber.”

Reber pitched in both of the tournament games with the Huskies, allowing just one hit and facing the minimum of 12 batters in the 10-0 win, and yielding just three hits in the 11-1 win. Both games were stopped after four innings because of a 10-run rule.

In the eight innings pitched against the Huskies, Reber recorded 13 strikeouts, while walking three.

A North Marion batter reached on a base hit with one down in the fourth inning of the 10-0 shutout. The baserunner advanced around on a stolen base and passed balls, but catcher John Irish and Reber teamed up to get the out at the plate when the baserunner attempted to score on a passed ball.

“We work on that play a lot,” Geertsen observed.

Trailing 5-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth, the Kingsmen had to battle from behind in the 6-5 win over the Canby Cougars.

Brett Harrison singled and Reber walked in the bottom of the fourth, and Derek Douangphrachanh singled them home. Douangphrachanh stole around to third and scored the tying run on a groundout by Myles Gredvig-Hollins.

The Kingsmen held the Cougars scoreless in the top of the fifth, and they scored the game-winner in the bottom of the inning on a well-executed squeeze play.

Korbyn Amundson led off the fifth with a walk, stole around to third base, and scored on the squeeze-bunt by Nick Geertsen.

The tournament championship was all the more gratifying for the Kingsmen, because they started off the season with losses in their first five league games, after being forced to play at the Midget Federal level, the highest competitive level for 9- and 10-year-olds.

“We signed up as an American team, but because of low numbers [in Putnam Junior Baseball] they made us a Federal team [to start the season],” Geertsen said. “We were definitely not a Federal team. We were getting clobbered....”

Once the Kingsmen were reclassified back to the American Division, they went 9-2 in league, losing only to North Marion and to Oregon City.

The top finish in the county tournament advanced Putnam to the State Midget American Tournament, where they were seeded number one.

Geertsen explained his Kingsmen’s unanticipated success at the county tournament: “We don’t make a lot of errors and our pitchers don’t give up a lot of walks. Our pitchers throw strikes and let the defense make the plays.... Fundamentally we’ve very sound on defense.”

The Kingsmen were also pretty good with their bats, as they sported a .353 team batting average for their six county tournament games.

Vying for the Kingsmen at the county tournament were: John Foglio (shortstop/pitcher), Nick Geertsen (second base/shortstop/pitcher), Brett Harrison (pitcher/second/centerfield), Dakota Reber (pitcher/first base), Derek Douangphrachanh (centerfield/third base), Robby Collman (outfield/pitcher), Myles Gredvig-Hollins (outfield), John Irish (catcher), Carson Golden (outfield/catcher), Alex Mehigan (outfield) and Korbyn Amundson (third base). Henry Harrison (outfield) was also on the team, but did not play in the county tournament.

Brett Harrison hit .545 (6-for-11) to lead the Kingsmen at the plate for the county tournament. Irish, Foglio, Geertsen, Reber and Douangphrachanh all hit better than .425. Douangphrachanh had a team-leading nine runs scored and .785 on-base percentage.

Mike Harrison and Jason Reber assisted Mike Geertsen in coaching the team; Mark Collman and Dan Golden were parent helpers.

Success in baseball is nothing new for coach Geertsen. As a youth he played on a Harmony Junior Baseball team that defeated Sunset for the 1977 Senior Federal state title. His senior year in high school he played for a Clackamas High team that lost to Bend 5-4 in the state semifinals.

Some of the other players on Mike Geertsen’s youth team were: Trace Czyzewski, Bryan Peeples, Kent Howarth and Eddie Wilkins.

Geertsen says he plans to move his Putnam youth team up to the Junior American level next season.

“We’ll play Junior American fall ball beginning Sept. 9, so we can get used to the Junior [pitching and basepath] dimensions — let them get a taste of playing longer bases and against bigger kids, which I don’t think will hurt this group.”

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