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Stillwater Legion team advances in playoffs

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Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

An offensive outburst, solid pitching and an assist from a traffic jam helped the seventh-seeded Stillwater Post #48 Legion baseball team beat 26th -seed Waconia 2-1 last weekend in the first round of the playoffs.

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Waconia underestimated the Friday afternoon traffic, and arrived late for the first game of the series. Stillwater (19-11) took advantage of the extra time at the field, and turned a huge first inning into a 15-0, seven-inning victory.

"It hurt them more than it helped us," said Post #48 coach Noah Schumacher. "They felt in a rush and we hit the ball real well."

"Real well" might not do the first inning justice. Robbie Johnson and Ian Houck each had two hits in the 11-run inning, with both of Houck's producing RBI's. The biggest blow in Stillwater's half of the first came from Tyler Mordick, in the form of a bases loaded triple.

The run support was more than enough for Post #48 starting pitcher Ryan Lindgren, who fired a complete-game, two-hit shutout to improve his record to 6-1. Despite Lindgren's 11 strikeouts, the two numbers Schumacher was happiest with were both zero. Lindgren didn't walk a batter in his shutout, and Stillwater played error-free in the field.

"It was nice to get up right away, and Lindgren could count on throwing strikes," said Schumacher. "The walk and errors can really hurt you in the playoffs, so it was nice to stay away from those."

On Saturday, the series and the momentum shifted to Waconia. Despite a late charge to force extra innings, Post #48 ultimately couldn't shake a big fourth inning and saw Waconia tie the series with an 8-7 win in 10 innings.

Waconia took a 7-3 lead and control of the game with five runs in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to some timely hits and some unfortunate bounces for Stillwater.

"We had two diving plays in that inning that we've made all year that just kind of bounced out of the gloves," said Schumacher. "If we hang on to those, it's a different game."

The boys of Post #48 wouldn't go down without a fight. Down to their last out, Stillwater rallied to tie the score at 7-7 and send it to the 10th. Waconia won the game in the bottom of the tenth with a sacrifice fly off Post #48 starter Marcus Elmer. Elmer pitched all ten innings, giving up six earned runs on 14 hits.

"Marcus throws strikes, and he didn't really give anything up after the fourth," Schumacher said about his pitcher.

Back on their home turf, Stillwater didn't need traffic delays or an 11-run inning to win the third game and the series. Instead, they used more outstanding starting pitching, smart baserunning and a three-run fifth to win 6-2 and end Waconia's season.

Zilles took the mound in the rubber match and pitched eight strong innings to improve his record to 4-1. He struck out one, and Waconia's only two runs came off an eighth inning homerun.

Lindgren engineered some runs in the early innings. In the second inning he single, stole second and came home on Mike Hailo's RBI single. Lindgren walked in the fourth, advanced to second on a passed ball, stole third and came home on an errant throw to put Post #48 ahead 2-0.

Stillwater put the game away with three more runs in the fifth. Mac Ziemer led off with a hard shot to short that was ruled an error. After a single by Mike Wilson, Ziemer scored on a balk. Billy Zintl and Lindgren also had RBI's in the inning.

Post #48 resumed playoff action on Wednesday at 3:00 pm at Eastview High School in Apple Valley against tenth-seeded Hutchinson. After advancing through the first round series, the winners are bracketed and compete in double-elimination tournament format with the champion crowned on Sunday, July 31.

Matt Higgins is at 651-777-3830 and at sports@stillwatercourier.com.

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