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Storm rolls to state Babe Ruth tournament

Drew Bade delivered a pitch during the Storm's win over Staples in the Timberline League tournament.1 / 3
Rilee Johnson connected for a hit during a Timberline League game against New York Mills this summer.2 / 3
Josh Severtson used a head-first slide to score a run against Staples in the Timberline League championship game.3 / 3

Good pitching, solid defense and timely hitting comprise a winning formula at any level of baseball.

The Park Rapids Storm Babe Ruth baseball team used that formula to qualify for the state tournament with an undefeated record.

The Storm went 12-0 during the Timberline League season, went 4-0 to win the Timberline League tournament and went 3-0 to win the district title to qualify for the state tournament, which begins Thursday at Cold Spring, Richmond and Avon. The Storm will carry a 19-0 record to state.

"The kids played awesome all summer," said Storm head coach Greg Johnson, who is assisted by Jason McCollum. "We've had great pitching and we've played great defense and when we hit the ball well, we dominate."

The group of 14- and 15-year-old players out-scored their opponents by an 83-23 margin during the 12-game league schedule this season.

Park Rapids swept all six doubleheaders, defeating Menahga by scores of 6-1 and 12-4, defeating Vergas by scores of 9-0 and 5-2, sweeping Staples by scores of 7-3 and 5-0, defeating New York Mills by scores of 10-3 and 14-1, edging Perham by scores of 4-3 and 4-2, and topping Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale by scores of 4-3 and 3-1.

Leading Park Rapids on the mound in those 12 league games were Tyler McCollum (6-0 record, 10 runs allowed on 21 hits with 38 strikeouts and 14 walks in 26 innings), Drew Bade (3-0 record, four runs allowed on 14 hits with 27 strikeouts and seven walks in 20 innings) and Rilee Johnson (3-0 record, six runs on five hits with four strikeouts and 12 walks in 12 innings).

Offensively, the Storm was led by Jordan McCollum (.500 average, five runs), Johnson (.469 average, 13 runs), Bade (.351 average, eight runs), Tyler McCollum (.344 average, seven runs), Josh Severtson (.300 average, five runs) and Cody Brumbaugh (.294 average, 11 runs).

During the Timberline League tournament at Park Rapids July 19-22, the Storm coasted to the title by outscoring its opponents by a 48-9 margin.

Jordan McCollum pitched the Storm to a 14-1 win over Menahga in the first round. A nine-run fourth inning sparked the win as this game was called after five innings because of the 10-run rule. Brad Eischens and Bade scored three runs apiece, Jordan McCollum went 3 for 3 and Jon Burlingame went 2 for 3 to lead the offense.

Tyler McCollum threw a five-hitter and struck out eight in leading the Storm to a 6-1 win over Vergas in the second game. Singles by Brumbaugh and Tyler McCollum led to two runs in the first, doubles by Severtson and Bade and a single by Riley Massie led to two runs in the second, and singles by Burlingame and Eischens led to two runs in the third.

Severtson went 4 for 4 and scored three times and Derek Porozinski went 2 for 2 and scored three times to lead the Storm to a 13-7 win over Staples in the third game. Severtson and Jordan McCollum had triples while Severtson, Eischens, Bade and Porozinski belted out doubles.

The Storm claimed the tournament title with a 15-0 four-inning victory over Staples in the final game. Singles by Eischens, Bade, Brumbaugh and five walks led to five runs in the first while singles by Eischens, Brumbaugh, Tyler McCollum and Burlingame and a double by Severtson sparked an eight-run third.

At the district tournament at Staples Thursday and Friday, the Storm earned a state berth by defeating Blackduck 3-0, Nevis 12-0 and Staples 9-1.

Tyler McCollum threw a no-hitter as the Storm blanked Blackduck in the first game Thursday. Singles by Bade and Tyler McCollum led to a run in the first, singles by Menahga draftee Bobby Lusti and Porozinski led to a run in the second, and a double by Porozinski and a single by Eischens produced the final run in the seventh.

Bade and Perham draftee Tristan Hammans combined on a three-hitter as the Storm blanked Nevis in Thursday's semifinals. Singles by Johnson and Lusti were the key hits in a four-run third while singles by Burlingame, Hammans, Severtson and Johnson and a double by Bade sparked a four-run fifth. Hammans struck out six of the seven batters he faced as this game was called after five innings because of the 10-run rule. Johnson went 3 for 4 to pace the offense.

Bade and Hammans teamed up for a one-hitter as the Storm defeated Staples in the title game. Singles by Eischens and Lusti led to two runs in the first before a double by Severtson and singles by Massie, Johnson and Lusti produced two more runs in the second. A four-run fourth - which featured four walks, singles by Bade and Tyler McCollum, and a double by Hammans - sealed the win.

The 14-team state tournament will begin Thursday with the Storm facing Cold Spring Blue at 11 a.m. at Cold Spring. The double-elimination tournament runs through Sunday.

Thursday's other first-round games pit Wheaton against Staples, St. August against Roseau, East Grand Forks against Luxenburg, Hawley against Dassel Cokato and Tonka against Albany White. Albany Purple and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton receive first-round byes.

"This is a good bunch of athletes so I had a pretty good idea we'd be this good this year," said Johnson. "My expectations are to win it all. If we play good baseball, I think we can run the table."