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Battle for the Keg tightens rivalry and friendships for Elrosa and Spring Hill
Battle for the Keg tightens rivalry and friendships for Elrosa and Spring Hill
Posted on Nov 20, 2017
By Nick Gerhardt
Out on the Minnesota prairie there exists a keg unlike any other.
Some say it has enough vexing power to curse a team, others make sure it appears at some of life’s biggest moments. At all times it’s something to behold and bring together the communities of Elrosa and Spring Hill for annual battles to gain possession of its decade-old contents of green beer from a St. Patrick’s Day of yesteryear.
Just 8 miles separate Elrosa and Spring Hill and during some fierce battles it might feel that it’s not enough distance between the hamlets that total 308 in population.
It seems mythology is based around some fact but let’s allow for some of the facts surrounding the keg to come through.
It is true the keg has disappeared twice and has appeared on horseback.
Some say the keg was an attempt to curb some of the trash talking between the clubs. There are those who claim arguments sprouted up at weddings, gun raffles, ham dinners, family reunions and local bars. They’d begin about baseball but veered into arguments over scoop shovel gloves, twine cutting and the mysterious disappearance of field equipment and the reappearance of the equipment painted in the rival’s colors.
The keg has rolled down the Spring Hill church parking lot and even paraded around Spring Hill on horseback by Elrosa players. It has been said to be guarded by chain-smoking trolls, though the keg wasn’t safe during a three-day keg-napping in the summer of 2014.
“It’s just a good symbol of respect,” Saints shortstop Matt Middendorf said of the keg rivalry.
Forging the rivalry
What makes this rivalry even more unique is that the two squads have long featured players familiar with each other since Little League. Elrosa’s roster features players who attended Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa High School and Sauk Centre High School. Spring Hill’s roster is mainly players who graduated from Melrose. The two schools are longtime conference rivals and most of the players grew up competing against each other. Even then it was a class rivalry with a shared respect.
It took a pair of rivals becoming teammates in college to begin one of the most interesting rivalry stories in town ball. Middendorf and Elrosa teammate Ethan Vogt played at Ridgewater Community College and there they met the Terres boys -- Nate and Jamie from Spring Hill. Middendorf and Nate Terres first played together at Ridgewater and later Vogt and Jamie became teammates and led the team to the 2004-05 National Junior College Athletic Association World Series. Vogt and Jamie also played a summer with Thunder Bay in the Northwoods League.
“Growing up all the way from little league, you remember playing these guys,” Jamie Terres said.
With the friendships formed in college, it turned into something fun for the friends when they met on the diamond for town ball and to keep it interesting they added a keg.
The idea of playing for the keg began when Elrosa’s Gumby Bauer had an old keg laying around from a St. Patrick’s Day party in 2007 that some people noticed months later. An idea sprouted to create a rivalry game with Spring Hill by painting both teams’ logos on opposite sides of the keg, like a trophy game in the Big 10. The score of each meeting is kept on the side of the keg, like the jug the Minnesota and Michigan football teams play for each year. It was later found that the keg still held some beer when a ballboy pressed down on it and it sprayed green beer, Middendorf said.
With the proximity of the towns and the mutual friendships, the battle for the keg pits family and friends against each other.
Five sets of families play for Spring Hill -- there are five members of the Schoenberg family including manager Randy, four Terres boys, a pair of Bartens, Welles and Revermanns.
Though the lines on the field are clearly drawn, they tend to blur in the stands. An Elrosa player is engaged to marry a relative of a Chargers player and in the stands, people might wear a Saints shirt but sport a Spring Hill hat later in the day. The keg will likely be at the upcoming wedding as an honored guest. It’s appeared at Middendorf’s wedding and Vogt’s wedding. But things get tricky when someone who’s getting married and their club doesn’t have possession of the keg.
“They want to make sure that thing’s at their wedding,” Middendorf said. “If it’s not there it’s kind of a big deal. You never have to want to go to the other town and pay a fee to rent it.”
Appearance fees for the keg usually run a case or two of beer.
When the keg isn’t on the field it’ll be in Bucky’s Bar for winter in Elrosa. Spring Hill rotates it between the Horseshoe Bar and Extra Innings. But now both sides keep it locked up for good reason.
The keg has been stolen twice since its creation but one instance stands out. Dubbed the “keg-napping” it disappeared for three days in 2014. On a Friday the 13th, leading up to a June 16 meeting. Spring Hill held possession of the keg by way of a 6-3 win back in May.
Spring Hill summoned a search party while a Twitter account, @whereisthekeg, sprung up.
Through some deduction work the keg was later found underneath a blanket in a vehicle located in neighboring Lake Henry. Though it was found no suspects were ever identified.
“I think the consensus was we knew where it was headed,” Jamie Terres said. “It was a little bit of a rabbit hunt. We start singling out the people. When you could hear the cows in the background you knew it wasn’t [the Vogts].”
The Vogts are dairy farmers who run the family farm and milk around 200 cows.
Buoyed by the temporary loss of the keg, the Chargers won the June 16 meeting.
Theft of the keg has stopped since then because it became a bit of a curse. Spring Hill lost the next two meetings after it stole the keg. The Saints lost the game following the disappearance of the keg.
Spring Hill leads the all-time series 20-18 and own one of the most dramatic victories in the series.
In a win-or-go home region playoff game in 2015, Spring Hill scored the biggest win in the rivalry since the creation of the keg trophy with a 5-3 victory to grab a spot at the state tournament.
Elrosa advanced to this year’s state tournament and made it through its first two games before falling to Jordan. Spring Hill’s season came to a close in a 7-4 loss to Meire Grove in the Stearns County League North playoffs.
The keg meanwhile will sit in Bucky’s in Elrosa until the spring comes.
“It’s going to be a long, dark winter there,” Jamie Terres said.
Photos courtesy of Elrosa Saints
WIN-LOSS HISTORY 1950-2017
Saints Season Cut Short by Jordan 4-0, Finish 24-11
JORDAN BREWERS 4 ELROSA SAINTS 0
GREEN ISLE--The Saints’ season came to an end as they were defeated by the Brewers of the River View League and Region 6A. The Brewers collected 11 hits, backed by a very good pitching performance by Mitch Bockenstedt. He threw a complete game to earn the win, he scattered 5 hits, issued no walks and he recorded 6 strikeouts. Jake Lucas led the Brewers offense, he went 2-4 with a big 2 run home run, he was hit by a pitch and he scored a run. Joe Lucas had a great game, he went 4-4 with a double, two stolen bases and he scored a run. Nate Beckman went 2-4 and he scored a pair of runs and Alex Beckman went 2-4. Devyn Ulibarri went 1-1 and Adam Kabul earned a walk.
The Saints, Ethan Vogt, the former University of Minnesota Gopher player, started on the mound, he threw 7 innings, he gave up 9 hits, issued one walk, he surrendered 4 runs and he recorded 8 strikeouts. Ethan actually gave up 8 of those hits to four players and seven were singles. His brother, veteran Aaron Vogt threw 2 innings in relief, he gave up 2 hits. Five base hits were collected by the Saints, Matt Schmitz, Cody Eichers and James Kuefler all went 1-4. Forty-three-year-old Pat Illies 1-3, Player-Manager A.J. Hadley went 1-3, Matt Middendorf was hit by a pitch and Brandon Roelike had a stolen base. They ended their season with a 24-11 record for the season. They were the Stearns County North regular season champions.
SAINTS BATTLE THE ELEMENTS AND ENDURE IN 13 INNINGS IN 7-6 WIN OVER HAMPTON
SAINTS BATTLE THE ELEMENTS AND WIN IN 13 INNINGS OVER HAMPTON
ELROSA 7, HAMPTON 6 (13 INNINGS)
NORWOOD--Mother nature decided to rain on the 2nd game here in Norwood. However, a good portion of this game was managed to play before they ultimately called the game.
The first pitch of the game drilled Matt Middendorf of Elrosa in the hip. He then managed to make his way over to third base after a walk and a single. Ethan Vogt then drove him in with an RBI single to put Elrosa up 1-0 early. The next batter then grounded into a double play to end the opportunity for more runs.
Middendorf led off the third inning with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He would then make his way over to third after a ground ball bumped him over. Matt then scored on a passed ball during James Kuefler at bat with two outs to make it 2-0. Austen Hadley led off the fourth inning with a single and was scored on a successful suicide squeeze by his brother A.J. to make it 3-0.
(AJ Hadley successfully squeezes in Austen Hadley- photo Randy Olson)
Hampton’s bats started coming alive in the bottom of the fourth when the first three batters got on base (single, walk, hit by pitch). David Barry then drove in the first run on a sacrifice fly to left field. Two batters later Rhett Hebig drove in another run with a single up the middle to make it a one run ballgame.
The first delay took place after the fourth inning. Elrosa’s starter was Jimmy Thull, who was a draftee out of New Munich, pitched solidly the first four innings allowing only four hits and two runs. Adam Moorse pitched the first four innings for Hampton as he allowed only four hits and three runs while striking out four.
Once play resumed both team’s bats stayed quiet for the fifth and sixth inning. Hampton then rallied in the bottom of the seventh when A.J. Sayer started the bottom half with a single. The next two batters got out and that’s when the Cardinals delivered clutch two out hits starting with an RBI single from Pat Strey, followed by an RBI double from David Barry, and then capped off by an RBI single from Johnny Dittman to make it 5-3.
Elrosa managed to get their first three batters aboard in the 8th and the game was suspended with the bases loaded and no outs. The game will be resumed at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday in Norwood.
(Elrosa hanging in the dugout waiting out the 1st Rain Delay- photo Randy Olson)
In the top of the 8th and bases loaded with no outs, Ethan Vogt drove in an RBI with a Sac Fly to CF. Austen Hadley popped out and the runners were unable to advance. Pat continued his legendary postseason with a 2-out RBI single to knot the game at 5-5.
Elrosa would score a run in the top of the 11th, but Hampton followed suit in the bottom half to score 1 run to push the game to the 12th. Ethan Vogt battled through 4 walks and 1 hit to keep base runners stranded into the 13th. In the top of the 13th, the Saints would once again load the bases with a 1 out bunt single placed perfectly down the 3rd base line on a play where it looked like Elrosa was going to send Matt Middendorf home from second base on the play, but the 3rd basemen didn't have a throw on the play.
Bases loaded with 2 outs as Matt Schmitz would strike out and Cody Eichers drove in the game winning run on a HBP. Ethan Vogt would shut the door in the bottom of 13, going 1-2-3 on 3 consective fly balls to LF, 3B, and CF.
Elrosa advances to take on Jordan in Green Isle next Saturday at 5pm in the Sweet 16.
(Saints clinch consecutive Sweet 16 births and are headed to Labor Day Weekend-photo Randy Olson)