HL Orphans baseballJared Koch (25) slides safely into third base during a state tournament game in September. The Orphans were one game away from playing for a state title.
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Orphans make it to state semi-finals

The Howard Lake Orphans had an extremely successful 2015 campaign that ended just short of an appearance in the Class C State Amateur Baseball Tournament championship game.

The Orphans ripped off wins against New Ulm, 9-4, and Waconia, 2-1, before losing to a tough team from Green Isle.

The Orphans dropped that game by a score of 13-7. The Orphans watched an early, but small 1-0 lead dissa\ippate.

Despite the 4-1 hole the Orphans faced, they battled back to score the next six runs of the game to regain the lead, 7-4.

But that would be the end of the scoring for the Orphans.

After Green Isle homer by Mac Zachow pulled the game to within one run in the eighth inning, things fell apart for the Orphans in the ninth inning.

Up 7-6, the Orphans allowed seven runs in the ninth to lose the game.

While the season didn’t end with the chance of playing for a championship, the Orphans still have a lot to be proud of this summer.

The team finished with a record of 27-8 and nearly went the distance in the state tournament.

Compared to last year’s team, which went 20-2, but bowed out in the round of 16 after a 10-2 loss to Jordan, the Orphans have to be feeling good about their performance.

“We finished with 19 players on the roster, and every single one of them made significant contributions during the season,” said Orphans coach Mike Gagnon. “Although we finished short of our ultimate goal (a state championship), this was the ninth time out of the last 10 times that we have qualified for the state tournament, and the fifth time in the last six that we have played into the last weekend of the tournament.”

Eric Schreifels batted .378 with four home runs for the Orphans.

Shane Khan won 10 games and finished with an earned run average below 2.50.

Shortstop Dan Wackler was named the Orphans’ Defensive Player of the Year.

Town team baseball in Howard Lake goes back a long way, starting in 1905, when the team was named the Blue Sox.

Throughout the early 1900s, Howard Lake eventually lost the name, but gained a new one in 1947.

Playing their home games in Cokato that year, as their field was being refurbished and couldn’t be played on, they started getting called the Orphans, and the name stuck.

The Orphans made their first state tournament appearance in 1951.