By - Staff Reports
Cold Spring, MN - Day one of the 94th Minnesota American Legion State Tournament began with 16 teams in search of a state title and a berth to the Central Plains Regional Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Edina, Excelsior, New Ulm Gold, and Tri-City Red all won both of their games and are the only teams remaining with an unblemished record. Each team is just two wins away from a trip to Sioux Falls.
Four teams have been eliminated as Austin, host Cold Spring, East Grand Forks, and Rosetown lost the two games they played Thursday. Rosetown lost in the opening round last year and worked their way through the loser bracket only to fall short and finish third in a memorable weekend at Braemar’s Courtney Field in Edina last year.
The tournament opened on four fields on day one. While Cold Spring was the host park, Paynesville, St. Martin, and Watkins hosted four games each on opening day. The tournament will be played out on two fields today with Paynesville joining Cold Spring as the hosts on Friday with all remaining games on Saturday and Sunday being played in Cold Spring.
Tri-City Red looks for 3-peat - Solfest has big day
Tri-City Red is two games away from winning their third straight state tournament and opened with a nail-biting 1-0 win over Austin. A single run in the first inning was all they needed as they rode the pitching arm of John Solfest. He worked 7 innings and struck out 12 in his 91-pitch outing. Austin’s Josiah Bothun pitched 6 innings allowing just one run and striking out 6. Bothun held Tri-City to just 4 hits on the afternoon.
Game two went a little smoother for Tri-City as they dispatched the Eastview Thunder 10-2. A 7-run third inning was key to Tri-City Red’s run-away win Thursday evening. Solfest led the way again, this time at the plate. Through his team’s first two games he is 3-6 with a double and 3 RBI. Tri-City will face Excelsior on Friday at Cold Spring Park in the first game of the final four unbeaten teams. Game time is 3:30pm.
Emergency starter Hopkins saves the day for Edina Post 471
Edina Manager Gene Larkin approached his team’s General Manager Nick Kennedy moments before the game, and informed Kennedy their scheduled starter had soreness after warming up and he needed to make a change on the mound. The announcement came after the American Legion code, just moments before the game was to begin. Larkin opted to go with Tanner Hopkins who not only started the game on a moments notice, but delivered a complete game - 4 hit shutout - for Edina in a 2-0 win over Anoka. Hopkins also delivered an efficient 68% strike ratio for his team.
Starting the season on the Junior Legion team this summer, Hopkins and was elevated to the Senior Legion team before the rosters were finalized along with Edina Senior Legion 2 player Jack Bale to fortify Larkin’s pitching staff after Post 471 lost two arms this year. The hard throwing right hander with good stuff stepped up when needed and guided Post 471 to the win and a game with New Ulm Gold in the final four round of unbeaten teams in the Minnesota American Legion State Tournament.
Edina opened with a convincing 8-1 win over Buffalo in the tournament opener. Post 471 belted out 13 hits while breaking open a 1-1 game with 3 runs in the fourth, and 2 in the fifth and sixth innings. Matthew Enck had 3 hits in the game while Lucas Fleming pitched 6 innings and fanning 8. Jonathan Bunce is 3-5 in the two games with a homerun and 3 RBI. Edina will face New Ulm Gold in the nightcap at Cold Spring Park at 6pm.
Excelsior continues to dominate
There has been plenty of chatter about this year’s Excelsior American Legion baseball team and for good reason. They have lost just two games this year and are 49-2 on the campaign. Losses Wayzata in the playoff round of the grinding Gopher Classic and a team from the Carolinas in a tournament held there marks the only time they have tasted defeat this year.
They opened with a 5-2 win over Woodbury and hammered Lakeview 12-1. Leading the way for the opening day at the plate for Excelsior was William Sturek who was 3-5 with a single, double, triple and 3 runs. Twin brother Michael Sturek had a triple and 4 RBI on the day while Michael Thimsen hammered out 4 hits to go along with 4 RBI. Excelsior sprayed out 17 hits over the two games and hit .347 as a team.
On the mound, they utilized six different pitchers for the day with Michael Sturek worked the longest of any Exelsior hurlers going 5 innings allowing 3 hits while striking out 8 Woodbury Blue batters. Three of the six Excelsior pitchers used Thursday are immediately available with only Sturek and Samuel Tyrpa (57 pitches) requiring more than one day of rest.
New Ulm Gold cruises to a pair of wins
New Ulm Gold continued their impressive run this season as they improved their record to 33-4 this year. Opening with a 10-0 win over Cold Spring, New Ulm Gold rapped out 12 hits. Leading the way were Chris Knowles, Hunter Ranweiler, and Joshua Seidl each had two hits to open the tournament.
A five run first inning by New Ulm Gold allowed them to cruise through the game and save on pitching. Starting pitcher Mark Schommer threw 44 pitches in 3 ⅓ of work and is available on one day of rest which will be Saturday. Cole Backe closed out the final 2 ⅔ of the game and threw 54 pitches in his outing meaning he is available on Sunday.
Game two was a tight one from Cold Spring Park as New Ulm Gold rallied to defeated the St. Cloud Chutes by a score of 4-1. The Chutes scored their only run in the first inning and held the New Ulm bats at bay. Gold broke through with a pair of runs in the fifth inning and added two more in the top half of the seventh while being held to just five hits in the game by Chutes pitching. Tanner Neu was impressive through six innings for the Chutes allowing 2 runs on 4 hits. New Ulm Gold starter Aaron Portner fired a complete game allowing one run and just 3 hits.
Knowles is hitting .429 for the tournament going 3-7 on the day with 4 RBI. Hunter Ranweiler was 3-6 with 4 RBI as well. They make up a solid combo in the middle of the order that is proving to be difficult for opposing pitchers. New Ulm Gold faces Edina in the nightcap at 6pm from Cold Spring Park having defeated Edina in the Gopher Classic a few weeks ago.