The Richfield Reds American Legion baseball team hosted its second annual Karnas Klassic American Legion baseball tournament July 7-9, at Richfield High School’s Kispy Stadium.
After initially unveiling the tournament last year and playing well, the Reds had added motivation to play well in the tournament this year.
The Karnas Klassic is named to honor the Karnas family, including George Karnas, who began coaching in 1970, and Mike Karnas, who continues to work with the Richfield High School baseball program.
“It’s fun to do something like this in honor of the Karnas family,” Richfield Reds head coach Jason Boie said. “I have known them since I was a kid, Mike [Karnas] and George.
“They have been in this community for so long, so when we decided to have a tournament and [Richfield Reds assistant coach Kyle Nutting] said we should name it the Karnas Klassic, I was like, yup, I couldn’t think of a better name. It means a lot to the community because the Karnas family has done so many great things for the community. This is nothing compared to what they have done for the community over the years.”
After George Karnas passed away in October, this weekend was about more than baseball for the Reds.
“George has done so much for Richfield baseball and American Legion baseball in the state of Minnesota,” Richfield Reds assistant coach Kyle Nutting, who played with Mike Karnas’ two oldest sons, was coached by Mike Karnas and coached alongside Mike Karnas, said. “It’s really important we celebrate his legacy here in baseball and in American Legion baseball in general for everything he has done.”
For the Richfield players, the weekend was about doing as well as they could for the coaches, Karnas family and Richfield community.
“Obviously this means a lot for the coaches,” Richfield senior Matt McGlinn said. “This means a lot for the coaches and the community, so it’s nice to come out and do well in a tournament that means more than just baseball.”
Richfield played well in the tournament for the second consecutive season, but the Reds fell short of the Karnas Klassic title with a 9-1 loss to Tri-City Red.
“I know they are very appreciative of how much the boys and the team have done, most of them have played for Mike at some level, and they all want to do well for the Karnas family,” Nutting said. “So many people have been touched by George and Mike, George started coaching in 1970 for the legion blue team and in youth baseball before that.
“There were 350 people at his funeral on a Wednesday morning.”
Richfield’s path to the title game
Richfield opened the Karnas Klassic with a 10-2 victory over Tri-City Blue July 7. Cole Christian and Nick Ulmer picked up multi-hit games for Richfield, while McGlinn and Asa Carlson drove in two runs apiece. Christian, Chase Androff, Ulmer, and Phil Pollis added RBIs for the Reds.
Dyland Jagdeo allowed just two runs (one earned), four walks and four hits over his five innings to earn the win.
Richfield followed up its win with a second victory to clinch a spot in the tournament’s title game with a 10-3 win over Parkland.
McGlinn led the Reds with a 3-for-4 day with two RBIs and two runs scored.
“I think it was just a good weekend, we got to compete in this last year and we did pretty well,” McGlinn said. “I think we just wanted to do the same this year and we did just that.
“The bats came out, which is nice to see, so this was nice to see heading into sub-state.”
Christian went 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored. Ulmer (1-for-2 with one RBI), Joel Schaefer (3-for-3 with one RBI), Pollis (two RBIs), Davis Miles (two RBIs) and Asa Carlson (2-for-2) also had strong days for the Reds.
Nate Daggett allowed three runs on seven hits in his three innings while striking out two batters. Pollis pitched four shutout innings and allowed four hits and two walks while striking out two batters.
The Reds were held to just two hits in the 9-1 loss to Tri-City Red in the Karnas Klassic finale July 9.
Despite the loss to end the weekend, Boie feels good about the state of his squad.
“Overall I feel great,” Boie said. “In the end I told the guys that in this last week they are putting pressure on me as a coach, because I sit down and look at the lineup and it’s tough because everybody is pushing for spots.
“They’re becoming a baseball team, they’re thinking like baseball players and they are doing the little things and making it tough. They’re fun to be around right now and they are having fun playing the game. We were in a lull, we were in a slump for a little while and they weren’t having fun playing the game. They’re really having fun right now, and that’s fun for me as a coach.”
Boie’s hope now is that Richfield can maintain its success as it looks to play well at the upcoming sub-state tournament.
“We did the same thing last year, last year was the first one,” Boie said. “I think a lot of it is about defending the home turf, but I wish I knew what the secret was for why this is when we start to jell and play as a team, but I don’t know.
“Whatever it is I hope we keep it.”
Boie’s plan for success with his group is to make sure the team remains excited about baseball every time the players step onto the field.
“My task right now is to keep the energy up and make sure they keep the energy up,” Boie said. “I don’t want to try to overdo it or overcoach, they have done a good job of policing themselves with the energy.
“They’re excited to come to the ballpark, it’s a different attitude.”
Follow Richfield sports editor Chris Chesky on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris and on Facebook at SunSportsStaff.