St. James American Legion Post 33 began its trip down the road leading to the Legion State Tournament last week with sub-district play.
St. James crushed Minnesota Lake at home on Thursday night and then went 2-2 in Saturday and Sunday games to secure a spot in District Tournament play which begins Friday in Milroy, MN.
St. James 12-0 over Minnesota Lake
St. James began tournament action at home against Minnesota Lake on Thursday and crushed the visitors 12-0.
A week earlier St. James got by Minnesota Lake 5-2 and didn't secure the win until scoring four in the bottom of the sixth. On Thursday night it was all over by the second when St. James scored ten runs.
Coach Tim Pinke said it was the biggest inning Post 33 has had in many years.
St. James added one in the first and another in the third to account for the 12 total runs they put on the board.
This is a team that more often than not has played small ball this year, and found ways to scratch out the runs needed for victory. The game started that way in the first as Ryan Menssen singled, stole second and scored on the next pitch that Kyle Pinke smacked for a single.
That was the end of small ball for this game. St. James sent 14 batters to the plate and didn't have an out until the 11th batter.
John Olsen got two hits in the inning. He led off with a double, advanced to third on a Zach Brandts single and Devin Wolle drove them both in with a double.
St. James took one more jab at small ball when Nick Beckius tried to sacrifice Wolle, but a surprise bunt attempt turned into a single. Zack Gleiter was hit by a pitch and the bases were loaded.
Walker Froehling singled driving in a run, Menssen drove in two with a single, Froehling scored from third on a passed ball and Kyle Pinke drove in Menssen with a single.
Carlson got on base due to an error and Olsen got his second hit, which once again loaded up the bases.
Wolle got the next run in when he walked on five pitches. Beckius drove in another run with a fielder's choice and Brandts scored on a passed ball.
With the ten runs in the third, Coach Pinke pulled starter Sam Carlson after three. As the top pitcher in the rotation, Pinke wanted to save Carlson for the weekend games.
Carlson struck out six in his three innings and Jacob Ziemer pitched two shutout innings. The game was called after five because of the ten run rule.
Saturday at Truman
Page 2 of 4 - The Tournament resumed for St. James on Saturday as Post 33 took on Blue Earth and lost the game 6-0. St, James faced a pitcher who was back from college, and they were unable to figure the Blue Earth starter.
St. James only managed three hits. Froehling started, went three innings, gave up one earned run and was charged with the loss. Ziemer went four innings and gave up one earned run. St. James had five errors and that was a percussor of things to come.
The loss put Post 33 in a must win situation, as a second loss would end their season.
St. James started Carlson against Wells in the second game on Saturday. Post 33 won 5-4 and Carlson went the distance, giving up three earned runs while striking out seven.
Carlson and Wolle went 2-3 with Wolle collection two RBIs.
St. James fell behind 4-2, but added three in the bottom of the fifth to take a one run lead. Carlson pitched 1,2,3 sixth and seventh innings to secure the win and give American Legion Post 33 the chance to play another day and week.
Sunday at Truman
The win on Saturday advanced St. James to the District Tourney finals this weekend as the top two teams were advancing out of this sub-district.
The games against Blue Earth on Sunday were for bragging rights. Which team would be the top seed coming out of Truman.
To be the top seed, St. James would have to win two.
Post 33 won the first game 13-12 scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh to win, but dropped the second game 7-6 in extra innings.
The stat that jumps out is errors, as St. James had 15 errors in the two games. Post 33 had 10 errors in the first game,with half of them committed by Carlson. Not many times a team commits 10 errors and wins. "Errors were a big issue for us all weekend," Coach Pinke said.
Kyle Pinke started the first game and lasted 2.66 innings giving up four runs with two of them earned.
St. James trailed 6-2 before tacking on six runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 8-6 lead.
St. James batted around the order, and like the Minnesota Lake game John Olsen got it going. Brandts followed with a double and Wolle drove Olsen in with a ground out. Before the inning was over St. James had a two run lead.
Blue Earth came back to tie it up in the fifth. St. James came back to take a two run lead in the bottom of the fifth and pushed that to a three run 11-8 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
Page 3 of 4 - In their last at bat Blue Earth scored four times to take a 12-11 lead.
In their last at bat Zack Gleiter doubled with one out. Walker Froehling singled in Gleiter with Froehling advancing to second on the throw to the plate. Froehling advanced to third on an error. After an intentional walk to Menssen, Kyle Pinke drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly.
Froehling and Gleiter had stellar games at the plate. Walker was 4-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Zack was 3-4 with five runs scored. In all Post 33 had 15 hits. Menssen pitched the last three innings and got the win.
Game two was played to determine the top seed coming out of this district. It was another back and forth game that ended when Blue Earth hit a home run in extra innings to give them a 7-6 win.
Ziemer pitched six innings and gave up five runs four of them earned.
Blue Earth jumped out to a 3-1 lead through the top of the third, but St. James tied it up in the bottom of the third. Blue Earth took a one run lead in the fourth, but St. James scored three in the bottom of the fourth to take a 6-4 lead.
Blue Earth tied it up in the seventh. After pitching a complete game the day before Carlson came in to stem the threat. He shut them down in the seventh, but gave up the homer in the eighth that gave Blue Earth the win. Sam struck out six in two innings of work, and was stuck with the loss. St. James could not score in the bottom of the eighth. Wolle was stranded at third when Menssen flied out to center.
For the two games Froehling was 7-8 and Gleiter was 5-9, which is outstanding hitting from the top two sports in the order.
The District Tourney at Milroy
Post 33 advances to the District Tourney in Milroy, MN. The double elimination tourney runs the next two weekends. St. James plays its first game against Springfield at 5:30 pm this Friday. If Post 33 wins that game, they will play the next day at 7:30 pm and will probably face Blue Earth, which plays a third seeded Jackson in their first game.
If St. James loses the first game, they will go in the losers bracket and play at 2 pm on Saturday. Depending on how those first games play out, the Legion will play on Sunday. If they win on Sunday (or suffer their first loss) they would play the following weekend.
For the season St. James stands 14-5 with three of the losses coming against Blue Earth. To make it to the State Tournament Post 33 may very well have to beat Blue Earth twice. That's entirely possible considering how close three of the four games against Blue Earth this year have been.
Page 4 of 4 - St. James has a lot of pitching, as Post 33 put seven different pitches on the mound over a four day stretch last week. That's a key to advancing in a tournament like this. It looks like the bats have come alive, so it seems the Legion can play big or small ball.
What St. James can not do is play games where they commit five or more errors. The Legion team knows that. A key to victory will be avoiding the boots and the drops.