Legion baseball: Post 98's bats go silent at stateThe St. Paul Park Legion baseball team, which scored 35 runs in four playoff games en route to a Third District championship, plated only six runs in two state tournament contests and was ousted after the first day of the double-elimination tourney, held July 30 to Aug. 2 in New Ulm.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
The St. Paul Park Legion baseball team, which scored 35 runs in four playoff games en route to a Third District championship, plated only six runs in two state tournament contests and was ousted after the first day of the double-elimination tourney, held July 30 to Aug. 2 in New Ulm.
At state, St. Paul Park (23-13) fell 5-1 to Fergus Falls in game No. 1 and 6-5 to Mankato National in the second game. Both games were on Thursday, July 30.
“We didn’t hit the ball at all,” St. Paul Park head coach Matt Doornink said. “I don’t know if they didn’t come to play or what, but the bats just went silent.”
At the state tournament, only four players batted over .200 for Cottage Grove. Park senior Tyler Walseth led the way, batting .375, while fellow classmate Tommy Swanson hit .333. Park grads Ryan Nordtvedt and Brian Short each hit .300.
In the loss to Fergus Falls, St. Paul Park scored one run on five hits — three off the bat of Short, who scored the team’s lone run.
Park 2009 graduate Jaryd Marks went the distance for Post 98 on the mound, giving up four hits and five earned runs in eight innings, striking out seven and walking two.
Fergus Falls, the Ninth District champion, did its damage in the first two innings, scoring two runs in the first and three in the second.
Doornink said he thought losing the first game took a lot of the wind out of the team’s sails.
“I think everyone assumed we were going to beat Fergus Falls,” Doornink said. “At the end of the day, we just didn’t hit.”
The loss put St. Paul Park’s back against the wall in a night game on Thursday against Mankato National, which lost to Wayzata 11-4 in the first round.
In the loss, Mankato broke a 3-3 tie with three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and, although Post 98 scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, held on for the win.
In the eighth, St. Paul Park took advantage of two wild pitches and an error and Walseth delivered an RBI single to cut the deficit to 6-5, but Mankato was able to end the threat and Post 98 went down 1,2,3 in the bottom of the ninth inning to end its tournament.
Park 2009 graduate Jose Gonzalez took the loss, going four innings and allowing 10 hits and five earned runs while striking out three, while Park senior Drew Benson threw four innings of two-hit ball in relief, giving up zero runs and striking out four.
“I think a lot of the younger kids didn’t really fully understand how high-profile this state tournament was,” Doornink said. “Hopefully, they cherished the moment, because it will be hard to get back there. The seniors who won’t be coming back were pretty down after the second game.”
It was the sixth-ever time St. Paul Park has qualified for the American Legion State Tournament. Post 98 last earned a trip to state in 2006. It also qualified for state in 1965, 1966, 1983 and 1997. In ‘66 the team finished as state runner-up.
This year, St. Paul Park ran the table at the Third District tournament, defeating Forest Lake, Apple Valley, Eagan and West St. Paul to win the district championship.
Rochester went on to win the Minnesota state championship and, along with the tournament runner-up, Apple Valley, will go on to play in the Central Plains Regional and the Great Lakes Regional tournaments, respectively.
The champions from each of the eight regional tournaments — Central Plains, Great Lakes, Northeast, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South, West and Northwest — then advance to the American Legion World Series Tournament, to determine a national champion.
“I guess either way it’s going to end with a sour taste unless you end on a win,” Doornink said. “But, it was obviously a good season. There were a ton of teams that would have loved to do half of what we did. The parents and fans were great, the kids put out a great effort and the St. Paul Park Legion and Mr. Lucas allowed us to take the field and do what we did.”