For the second straight year, the Bluffton Braves scored early and often on their way to the Region 14C Championship. In 2019, Bluffton scored eight runs in the second inning on their way to a 13-0 victory over Perham. In 2020, the Braves scored eight runs in the second inning on their way to a 13-2 victory over the Midway Snurdbirds on Aug. 15 at Krueger Field to capture their second consecutive Region 14C Championship.

Bluffton manager Terry Geiser said it feels awesome to win their second straight Region 14C Championship.

“These guys put in a lot of time and worked hard to get where we are at,” Geiser said. “I’m really happy for the guys.”

Bluffton's Preston Warren joined the hit parade for Bluffton with a double in the Braves' 13-2 victory over Midway. (Jason Groth / Pioneer Journal)
Bluffton's Preston Warren joined the hit parade for Bluffton with a double in the Braves' 13-2 victory over Midway. (Jason Groth / Pioneer Journal)

Geiser said the quick start for the second straight year was one of the keys for the team. It allowed them to settle in and earn the No. 1 seed for the second straight year.

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“We always like to get a quick start, get a lead and let our pitcher take over from there,” Geiser said.

Offensively, the Braves were dynamic throughout the tournament, averaging 11.25 runs per game and scoring in double digits three of the four games. The one game they didn’t score 10 runs, they finished with nine in a 9-5 win over Deer Creek.

“I have played for a lot of years where our offense didn’t really do anything,” Geiser said. “It was really nice to see our offense come through. We have a solid lineup one through nine and it’s special and important.”

The Braves were led by the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Jake Dykhoff. For the second straight year, Dykhoff put up impressive numbers. He finished with 14 hits, six extra base hits, nine runs scored and nine runs batted in. He collected four home runs during the opening weekend and followed it up with four hits against Midway. On the bump, Dykhoff was 2-0 with 12 innings pitched. He allowed five hits and struck out 20 batters without allowing an earned run.

Bluffton's Jake Dykhoff delivers to the plate during Bluffton's Region 14C Championship victory over Midway. Dykhoff earned the MVP award for the tournament as well as the championship win on the mound. (Jason Groth / Pioneer Journal)
Bluffton's Jake Dykhoff delivers to the plate during Bluffton's Region 14C Championship victory over Midway. Dykhoff earned the MVP award for the tournament as well as the championship win on the mound. (Jason Groth / Pioneer Journal)

“He lifted us up with those home runs early and his pitching,” Geiser said. “He had a fantastic tournament and lifted the whole team up.”

The Braves jumped ahead in the first inning when Justin Dykhoff reached on a fielder’s choice to plate Cody Geiser, who reached on an error, making it 1-0.

Bluffton blew the game open in the second inning with eight runs. Preston Warren doubled home a run and Jake Dykhoff singled in a run. Tom Tellers reached on an error, which allowed a pair of runs to score and Kyle Dykhoff reached on an error which allowed two more to score. Wyatt Hamann capped off the rally with a two-run double, closing the eight-run inning out.

Bluffton's Wyatt Hamann locks in on the pitch against Midway in the Region 14C Championship. Hamann drove in four runs for the Braves in the commanding 13-2 victory over Midway. (Jason Groth / Pioneer Journal)
Bluffton's Wyatt Hamann locks in on the pitch against Midway in the Region 14C Championship. Hamann drove in four runs for the Braves in the commanding 13-2 victory over Midway. (Jason Groth / Pioneer Journal)

Midway scored a run in the fourth when Drew Rasmussen reached on a fielder’s choice and the throw went into right field, allowing Chris Baso to score.

However, Bluffton came right back with three more runs. Josh Dykhoff reached on an error, which brought in two more runs and Hamann followed with a run scoring single. Hamann had three hits and drove in four runs in the win for the Braves.

After Midway scored a run in the sixth, Hamann put the finishing touches on the game with an RBI single in the bottom half.

Jake Dykhoff picked up the win on the mound. He allowed one run on two hits. He struck out seven in five innings of work. Dustin Geiser pitched an inning of relief. He allowed one run on two hits and one hit better. Justin Dykhoff pitched an inning of scoreless relief. He allowed one hit.

Zach Etter, Preston Riewer and Sam Beck had hits for Midway, while Steve Wetterling had two. Brett Dormanen took the loss for the Snurdbirds. He allowed nine runs on seven hits. He struck out one batter in two innings of work.

Cody Geiser had two hits and three runs scored, while Josh Dykhoff and Hamann each had three hits as well. Jake Dykhoff finished with four in the win.

The Braves will now have a week off before opening play at either Milroy or Springfield with a first round bye. Terry Geiser said the Braves are hungrier and are looking to get that state tournament win that has eluded them the past two seasons.

Vintage performance lifts Midway to state

The Midway Snurdbirds relied on its veteran presence when they knocked off the Nimrod Gnats 5-0 to secure their 21st State Tournament berth on Aug. 15 at Krueger Field.

Jake Lund hit a two-run home run and pitched the first four and a third innings, helping the Snurdbirds get their first win in four tries against the Gnats.

Midway's Jake Lund is greeted by his teammates after connecting on a two-run home run, helping Midway to a 5-0 victory over Nimrod. (Jason Groth / Pioneer Journal)
Midway's Jake Lund is greeted by his teammates after connecting on a two-run home run, helping Midway to a 5-0 victory over Nimrod. (Jason Groth / Pioneer Journal)

Lund’s home run set the tone for the Snurdbirds. He connected on a Nolan Coyle offering after Drew Rasmussen singled with one out in the second. It was a shot that the Gnats would not be able to overcome.

The Gnats made Lund work, who returned to the Snurdbirds after a season off from the team. Lund allowed just one hit but struck out five. He walked five batters, but the Gnats could not make him pay for it.

Stetson Burkman came on in relief in the fifth and picked up the win in relief. He worked out of a jam when he struck out Alex Brockpahler and induced a ground ball from Luke Weniger. The Gnats stranded the bases full in that inning.

Midway added to the lead in the fifth when Steve Wetterling and Rasmussen drove in runs with RBI singles, making it 4-0.

It felt like the momentum was starting to turn in the bottom of the fifth, but Burkman was able to settle in and shut down the Gnats. Burkman allowed just one hit in four and two-thirds for the win. He struck out four, walked two and hit one batter.

Nolan Coyle took the loss on the mound for Nimrod. He went the distance and allowed five runs on 10 hits. He struck out nine and walked two.

Preston Riewer, Wetterling, Lund and Rasmussen had two hits each for Midway. Baso and Sam Beck added a hit each.