St. James Legion Post 33 baseball team played three heartbreaking games in the District Tournament at Milroy over the weekend.
In the first two games St. James ripped the hearts out of their opponents and in the last game they lost a heartbreaker ending their season with a record of 18-7.
For the second year in a row St. James made it to the Legion District Championship finals and for the second year in a row Post 33 lost. With that loss their chance to make it to State was snuffed out.
Having lost one game two weekends ago, Post 33 had to win every game they played last weekend. They first played Springfield and won 10-9 and then they beat Luverne 3-2.
Both those teams were eliminated by St. James on Saturday. On Sunday St. James lost to season long nemesis Blue Earth 2-1.
Post 33 10-9 over Springfield
This was as big a heartbreaker as you could get for Springfield as they were leading St. James 10-1, with Post 33 down to their last six outs. St. James exploded for nine runs in the top of the sixth to pull off a dramatic 10-9 win.
Sam Carlson started for St. James and had a rough go of it. Most of the time Carlson has been a dominant pitcher in the games he's started over his high school career.
On Saturday the wheels came off early as Carlson lasted just 2.66 innings and gave up nine runs. Just four of them were earned. He also walked three and gave up five hits.
St. James scored a run in the top of the first when Zack Gleiter scored on a Ryan Menssen double. The game must have seemed out of reach when Springfield finished batting in the bottom of the third and they had put nine runs on the board.
St. James was close to having the game called because of the ten run rule after five innings, but Kyle Pinke came in and scattered two hits and four walks over 3.33 innings to keep Springfield from adding to their score. Pinke kept St. James in the game.
Somewhere a baseball statistician can probably calculate the odds of a team coming back to win a game when they're down 9-1 with six outs to go. Fact is the the probability of winning that kind of ball game is slim to none.
St. James beat those odds on Saturday with a sixth inning that will be remembered for a long time by the Post 33 players and fans.
Ryan Menssen started things by getting hit by a pitch. Pinke flied out for the first out. Carlson then doubled Menssen home.
John Olsen doubled Carlson home. Zach Brandts walked and Devin Wolle singled loading the bases.
Page 2 of 3 - Nick Beckius doubled in Olsen and Brandts with Wolle stopping at third.
Gleiter was hit by a pitch once again loading the bases. Walker Froehling reached on an error and another run scored on that play. Beckius then scored from third on a passed ball.
Menssen walked on four pitches loading the bases for the third time. Pinke singled in two runs.
Carlson grounded out, but drove in the tenth run and Olsen grounded out to end the inning.
Pinke made it through the sixth and Walker Froehling got the save by pitching the seventh. Springfield had runners on first and second, but hit into a double play to end the game.
St. James got ten runs on nine hits. Pinke, Carlson and Beckius had two RBIs. Carlson had two hits and Gleiter and Menssen scored two runs.
Coach Tim Pinke succinctly summed it up, "That was a fun game."
St James 3, Luverne 2
Eliminating Springfield put Post 33 into their second elimination game on Saturday against Luverne. Once again St. James ripped the other team's hearts out by winning 3-2 in extra innings.
Luverne jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but St. James came back to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first.
The big blows were by Menssen and Carlson who each doubled in a run. Luverne tied it up in the third.
Then the two teams settled into a pitchers' dual. Froehling had the ball for St. James. The tall righty went 7.66 innings, striking out six while scattering ten hits and both runs charged against him were earned.
It went into extra innings and in the top of the eighth Luverne got a runner into scoring position at second. Carlson came in to relieve Froehling with two outs. Then Luverne committed the mortal sin of running themselves out of an inning. The runner at second was thrown out attempting to steal third. It's not a good idea to try and steal on Ryan Menssen.
In the bottom of the eighth Menssen got to first and Pinke singled. The Luverne right fielder let the ball get behind him. Menssen sprinted around the bases with the winning run. A dramatic win for St. James and a heartbreaking loss for Luverne.
Blue Earth 3, St. James 2
That win earned Post 33 the chance to go to State. They had to beat Blue Earth twice to do it. Unfortunately Post 33 had a heartbreaking 2-1 loss on Sunday that ended their season.
After the rough outing against Springfield Sam Carlson started against Blue Earth and pitched a solid game. He went the distance giving up two earned runs while striking out seven pitching in his third game in three days.
Page 3 of 3 - St. James scored in the bottom of the first when Gleiter hit a leadoff double and Froehling singled. Gleiter scored on an error by the centerfielder that also moved Froehling to second.
Blue Earth strung together enough hits to take a 2-1 lead in the third. In thinking about the game Coach Pinke lamented the fact the team had eight hits, got four walks, had a bunch of runners on base, but scored only once.
The last play of the game turned out to be the season ending, heartbreaking loss for St. James.
Gleiter led off the inning, and like he did at the start of the game, he doubled. He advanced to third on a Froehling ground out.
Menssen hit a fly ball to shallow left center. The Blue Earth infield was playing in to prevent the tying run from scoring. Shortstop David Franta sprinted back and caught the ball while running away from the infield.
Gleiter, who was on third broke for home. Franta, quickly stopped his momentum, turned and fired toward the plate. It was a perfect throw and Gleiter was out. Game over. Season over. Blue Earth advances to State.
One of the traits of the Legion team this summer had been aggressive base running. It usually paid off. Gleiter is one of the fastest and smartest base runners the Legion team had.
Most of the time he probably scores on that play. On Sunday, Blue Earth won the game on a great play.
Legion ends a great season with an 18-7 record. Four of the losses were to Blue Earth with St. James having just one win over Blue Earth. Most of the games could have gone Post 33's way, but the heartbreaking thing is this year they did not.