Post 334 keeps coming back to reach Gopher Classic playoff

Down 7-1 in the first playoff game of the day, Coon Rapids Legion Post 334 rallied to beat Apple Valley Post 1776 14-7 at Red Haddox Field in Bloomington July 14.

Future Minnesota Golden Gopher Alex Boxwell highlighted the comeback with a three-run home run during a six-run rally in the third inning. He blasted a two-run homer in the fourth inning to give Coon Rapids a 9-7 lead and was intentionally walked the next two at-bats.

Coon Rapids infielder Matt Essler, middle, blocks second base to tag out an Apple Valley baserunner in the second inning of a wild 14-7 win in the Gopher Classic Tournament July 14. Post 334 catcher Justin Reeves’ throw was on the mark in the throw-down. Photo by Jason Olson

Coon Rapids infielder Matt Essler, middle, blocks second base to tag out an Apple Valley baserunner in the second inning of a wild 14-7 win in the Gopher Classic Tournament July 14. Post 334 catcher Justin Reeves’ throw was on the mark in the throw-down. Photo by Jason Olson

Relief pitcher Joe Lewis provided some calm after starter Nick Hanzlik was pulled from the game without issuing an out in the first inning.

Post 334’s run in the 2014 Jim Hanus Gopher Classic came to an end later in the day after a 10-2 loss against Omaha Millard South.

To reach the single-elimination portion of the tournament for the fourth straight season, Coon Rapids battled through the Hopkins site despite canceled games on Friday and Saturday.

Solid pitching performances by Tyler Wojciechowski and John Barclay positioned Post 334 to make a run at a fourth tournament title.

Wojciechowski combined a one-hit shutout with a two-run homer at the plate to end the game in five innings because of an eight-run rule in a revenge win against Omaha Skutt. Skutt beat Post 334, 8-7 in the Rapid City Firecracker tournament one week earlier.

Barclay scattered four hits and eight strikeouts for the win against St. Francis.

Taylor Groal blasted a two-run home run in the fifth inning, and a four-run first inning set the tone for Barclay.

Reeves had three hits, and Jake Hansen had two hits and drove in four runs on the day.

Ham Lake Post 2000

The Heat (7-11) drew a tough Apple Valley site for the Gopher Classic, going 2-2 after a 10-8 win over East Ridge in 10 innings Sunday afternoon.

Knowing how tired both pitching staffs were playing five games in three days, Post 2000 coach Adam Banse thought runs would be at a premium.

Coon Rapids pitcher Joe Lewis earned a complete game win in relief, July 14. Post 334 rallied from down 7-1 to Apple Valley Post 1776 to win 14-7 in the Gopher Classic elimination game played at Haddox Field in Bloomington.Photo by Jason Olson

Coon Rapids pitcher Joe Lewis earned a complete game win in relief, July 14. Post 334 rallied from down 7-1 to Apple Valley Post 1776 to win 14-7 in the Gopher Classic elimination game played at Haddox Field in Bloomington.Photo by Jason Olson

“We were just running out of pitching and scored three runs over four games,” he said. “I was just estatic that we scored any runs.”

Ham Lake scored seven runs in one inning to overwhelm a 3-0 deficit. East Ridge clawed back into the game and tied it with a seventh-inning home run.

“I was proud of the guys, particularly Tyler Ulmberg who bared down and shook off the homer after we started the season with three walk-offs against us,” Banse said as Ulmberg sat the next three batters down in order to stay alive.

The extra-innings offense was sparked by a double by Garret Gilland who knocked the ball to the base of the outfield fence. Hason Hayek followed with another double, this time to score Gilland.

Heat pitcher Abe Anderson picked up the save in relief in the 10th inning after catcher Jesse Slawson threw out a base runner looking to take third base.

Ham Lake opened the tournament with a 3-1 loss to eventual site champion Apple Valley and doubled up on the narrow losses with a 2-1 score against Sioux Falls (South Dakota) West. Ham Lake sent ace pitcher Zach Rustad to the mound, and he gave up two hits and one earned run in 5.1 innings. He struck out nine and walked three but couldn’t will the bats to come alive in support.

Coon Rapids infielder Matt Essler, left, safely dives back to first base. Photo by Jason Olson

Coon Rapids infielder Matt Essler, left, safely dives back to first base. Photo by Jason Olson

Rain shortened a 1-0 loss to Owatonna to six innings as Heat pitcher Ben Beckman gave up one hit on a bunt single.

Ham Lake received the No. 5 seed in the sub-section zone tournament and will face No. 4 Andover July 23 at Wintercrest. Champlin Park picked up the top seed followed by No. 2 Coon Rapids and No. 3 Robbinsdale Armstrong.

Anoka

Post 102 finished 3-1 in two days of games after Friday’s lone contest against Aurora (Regis Jesuit) was postponed due to rain at the Benilde-St. Margaret site.

Anoka opened Saturday with a 5-0 win against Marshall before eventual site champion New Ulm Gold pounded Post 102 in a 16-6 loss Saturday evening.

Against Marshall, Tory Ledin and Alex Prybil each had two hits, and starting catcher Trent Palmer drove in two runs in support of winning pitcher Titus Bishop, who gave up one hit in six innings of work. He walked one and struck out two before Evan Rowe worked the final inning for the win.

Anoka put together two hits and one walk for a three-run fifth inning, started by a lead-off walk by Alex Farley.

Coon Rapids first basebamn Connor Boone scoops up a bunt attempt for an out against Apple Valley. Photo by Jason Olson

Coon Rapids first basebamn Connor Boone scoops up a bunt attempt for an out against Apple Valley. Photo by Jason Olson

New Ulm posted eight runs in the fourth inning and four more runs in the sixth inning of the game, stopped after the seventh inning. Anoka’s Alex Glick went 3-for-4 with three RBIs

Sunday found even more success for Anoka with wins against Papillion, 9-4, and Chester Bird (Benilde), 10-4.

Against Papillion, Anoka’s bats used a six-run rally in the fifth inning to break a 4-0 deficit and added another three runs in the sixth inning. Farley, Trent Palmer, Ledin and Aspen Vetter each had two hits for Post 102.

The bats stayed hot against Chester Bird where six Anoka hitters picked up two or more hits. Leadoff batter Brett Bybee went 3-for-4 with a walk and Smith went 2-for-4. Palmer earned the complete game win, giving up two earned runs on five hits with six strike outs and three walks in seven innings.

The wins weren’t enough to overcome New Ulm’s dominance in what was a very solid site.

Andover

Andover was winless in four games at the Eden Prairie site. Andover dropped back-to-back Saturday morning games to Moorhead (5-2) and Minneapolis Sourthwest (7-1 in six innings). On Sunday, Las Vegas Aces blanked Andover 9-0 in six innings, and Eden Prairie scored a 7-3 win.

St. Francis

St. Francis went 3-2 at the Hopkins site, but Coon Rapids made up for two canceled contests by winning three straight to win the site title.

Hopkins shut out St. Francis 8-0 in the opener Friday, but rebounded with a 5-2 win against Brandon Valley (North Dakota). Omaha Skutt scored a 3-2 win over St. Francis in its lone Saturday game. St. Francis dropped a 6-1 loss to Coon Rapids Sunday afternoon and rebounded yet again with a 6-3 win against Excelsior Team No. 2 later Sunday.

Spring Lake Park

Jason Olson is at
jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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