The regular season of the American Legion baseball is quickly coming to a close as several teams prepare for the Gopher Classic ahead of the sub-state and state tournaments at the end of the month.
Andover posted a 3-8 record in June and July didn’t start any better for a team with so many soon-to-be seniors. Fifteen of the 18 players on the roster completed their junior season for the Huskies high school team and are still learning about Legion baseball.
Combine the growing pains and injuries to veteran pitchers Derek Walton and Harrison Siddons compounded the situation. Walton was lost to a concussion and has yet to return to action, while Siddons dislocated a finger in the season opener, a 3-1 loss at Osseo June 11.
The squad was outscored 45-11 in the month’s final six games for a 1-5 record.
After two close losses, the second a 7-6 to Tri-City Blue June 12, Andover picked up its first win of the season against Totino-Grace 3-2, June 18 thanks in part to a RBI single by Jake Bonin,
The offense came alive the next day, June 19, but came up short in a 10-8 loss to Ham Lake Post 2000. Bonin led Andover with four hits, Walton had three hits and Justin Freholtz drove in four runs in the team effort.
Playing its third game in as many days, Andover continued to swing the bats, handing Centennial a 14-4 loss in five innings June 20. Andover scored eight times in the third inning and six more in the fourth inning for the lopsided victory.
Kane Ruhl, Tyler Tomberlin and Tyler Evans each had two hits, while Tomberlin drove in three runs and Ruhl added two runs.
Andover dropped back-to-back 5-0 shutouts against Eden Prairie and Maple Grove before returning to the winning column with a 6-2 victory against Blaine June 26. Andover scored five times in the fifth inning to break-up the scoreless game. Wes Quinehan led the bats with three hits while pitchers Siddons and Alex Kenney combined for the win, scattering 11 hits with three strikeouts.
Three days after being shutout against Maple Grove, Andover was once again shutout by the Crimson, this time by a 12-0 score in the opener of a tournament in Duluth. Ashland, Wis., handed Andover a 5-4 loss later in the day, despite out hitting the Wisconsin post 9-4. Ashland also had four errors. Andover lead-off batter Eric Olson drove in two runs on two hits, including a double, but was also caught stealing.
Andover finished the tournament with an 18-3 loss to Lakeview, Wis., June 29. Lakeview scored seven runs in the third inning and posted a 10-spot in the fourth inning to limit the game to five innings because of the 15-run mercy rule.
Andover will participate in the Gopher State Tournament set for this weekend at Eagan High School before ending the regular season against St. Louis Park July 19.
Coon Rapids Post 334
Midway through the summer schedule the Coon Rapids Post 334 has a 9-5 record, recently returning from its annual trip to South Dakota.
Coon Rapids posted a 4-1 record at the Hauschild Memorial tournament in Brookings, S.D., June 21-27 with wins against Vermilion (2-0), Pierre, S.D. (6-3), Clear Lake (3-0), Buffalo (10-7) and a loss to Mitchell, S.D. 8-3.
The team continued west to Rapid City where it took part in the Post 22 Firecracker Tournament June 29-July 4.
Post 334 went 4-4, book-ending the tournament with wins against Eden Prairie (June 29: 10-9 and July 4: 8-4), erasing a six-year drought against Eden Prairie. The latter win came in the fifth-place game.
Shortstop Bobby Smith continued to swing a hot bat going two-for-three at the plate in the fifth-place game when he also hit by a pitch. His first hit of the game was a three-run home run in the fourth inning. The other hit produced one run with two outs in the sixth inning. Coon Rapids pitcher JB Bruner scattered nine hits through seven innings, but gave up three runs in the second inning.
Coon Rapids needed eight innings to get past Eden Prairie in the tournament opener, 10-9, at Fitzgerald Stadium in Rapid City June 29.
Smith hit a two-out, two-run double to the right center field gap to score Jake Sederstrom and Kyle Wold and break the tie in the top half of the eighth inning. One inning earlier, Anthony Mrosla blasted a two-out, two-run home run to tie the game.
Coon Rapids pounded Las Vegas Durango 13-1 for the biggest margin of victory in the tournament June 30 and handed West Warwick, R.I., a 6-2 loss July 3.
The 13-1 win against Durango came in four innings thanks to the 12-run mercy rule as Alex Aase, Smith and Alex Boxwell each had two hits.
Smith added another three hits against Rhode Island and Boxwell and Grant Farley had two hits each.
St. Francis Post 622
First-year St. Francis Legion Post 622 baseball coach Jon Chhay has the club off to a 7-3 record.
Pitching and defense are two areas in which St. Francis has excelled in addition to heads-up base running to take advantage of errors for runs or additional bases.
Brothers Josh (junior) and Luke (senior) Niemeyer and Alex Bauermeister (senior) have been the staples of the pitching staff so far this summer and should stabilize the Saints rotation next spring.
Being unable to hit the ball consistently has prevented the team from an even better record.
“We don’t make many errors either with a fairly young team,” Chhay said.
St. Francis doesn’t allow recently-graduated players to participate unless they will play in college, so the team is made up with sophomores and juniors.
St. Francis heads to the Princeton Invitational next week and opens against Chhay’s alma mater Hopkins Flyers Post 320 and former coach Todd Jahnke.
Chhay didn’t have a chance to work with the team before the Legion season began, but knew some of the players from coaching with the football and wrestling teams.
“We’ve gone through some growing pains in connecting with the kids knowing where they’re at with only 20 games is tough,” Chhay said. “So we’re trying to get kids into their roles as soon as possible so they have time to settle in before the state tournament.”
Having a fundamentally sound team should help them when it comes time to competing in the redrawn-District 10 tournament and eventually the state tournament, he said.