Legion dances into District 7 finals
This has been successful, but tough baseball season for Coach Keven Larson.
Saturday his team rewarded him with a nice 6-5 win over Cottonwood at Montevideo to advance to Sunday's District 7 American Legion Championship game.
The game begins at 2 p.m. against Montevideo.
Montevideo beat Madison 15-14 to eliminate Madison, then dumped Cottonwood 20-7 to eliminate Cottonwood from the tournament.
But Larson won't be there.
And neither will be five of his players.
They are committed to the Hope Lutheran Church Mission Trip that leaves Sunday morning.
That thought brought tears to Coach Larson's eyes.
"I'm extremely proud of you kids," said Larson. "I have total confidence in you."
He added, "Just keep playing and see what happens. I hope we get a text message tomorrow that you've won the tournament," he told the entire team after the game.
"Keven doesn't want to leave you guys," said Assistant and Jr. Legion Coach J.D. Pesch, who has been drafted to coach the team on Sunday.
Even assistant coach Jesse Nelson is gone on a fishing trip, so the whole District 7 Finals has landed in JD Pesch's lap.
Gone on the mission trip will be Alex Pohlen, Landon Abraham, Teddy Pesch, Brant Buysse and Coach Larson.
Landon Rolbiecki was to be gone on a family vacation but he announced he would be there for Sunday's championship game.
"Let's go all out for Keven," Coach Pesch told the players.
If Minneota loses, they will play a second game at 2 p.m.
"We're going to concentrate on winning that first game and putting everything into it," said Coach Pesch.
He indicated he'd probably start Preston Nuy on the mound with Henry Pesch the first reliever.
Henry Pesch, who graduated last year but was eligible by age to play American Legion ball, had some tough decisions to make. He was also scheduled to throw Sunday for the Minneota Mudhens Amateur baseball team, who play a 3 p.m. game at Cottonwood and 7:30 p.m. game at home against Madison. Those games are also important because they may help determine playoff seeding.
Pesch indicated he'd first try to help the Legion team, then try and make it to the Mudhen games.
"Keven is so passionate (about baseball), he hates to leave," said Pesch.
Larson reminded his team,"Nobody has gone through as much this year as we have." He was referring to the death of teammate Donnie Schuelke and now to the team losing their coach and players in the biggest game all year.
Coach Larson also said, "The last three years we haven't even made it to the Saturday game. Now you're in Sunday's championship and you're in the driver's seat. Come out like champs tomorrow," he said.
Because the American Legion playoffs are using the same "pitch count" method as was used in high school this year, all coaches have to be careful with their pitching.
Pesch asked the officials from Montevideo to provide the declared pitchcount of all pitchers before tomorrow, "So we know what the other teams can do."
"Other teams are using up their pitchers and we aren't," said Coach Larson. "We have everyone accessible."
MINNEOTA came out firing, scoring two runs in the first inning when Austin DeVlaeminck set the table with a leadoff double to the left field corner. Pohlen singled him home and scored on the first of three singles by Preston Nuy for the 2-0 lead.
Both teams played poorly on defense and in the second, Cottonwood picked up an unearned run.
In fact, pitcher Thomas Hennen would give up all five runs — and ALL FIVE were unearned.
Cottonwood took a momentary lead at 3-2 when two Minneota errors and singles by Seth Plotz and Tristan Groff led to two runs.
But Minneota came back with four in the fourth. Another two Cottonwood errors plus singles by Nuy, Landon Abraham and Brock Fox plus sacfrifices by Brant Buysse and Pohlen and DeVlaeminck getting hit by a pitched produced the runs.
Minneota never trailed after that. Cottonwood got two runs in the sixth on two more Minneota arrors and a hit by Aaron Lienemann and two-run double by Jausch. But Minneota held on to the 6-5 lead.
Despite a Groff double to lead off the seventh, Hennen stayed under control and got three outs to preserve the win.
Hennen, who just returned from Omaha, Nebraska, where he and brother Jacob played together in a basketball tournament (which they won), said, "Coach Larson asked me to pitch today. I said, yes, I was ready."
He walked just two and fanned one, allowing six hits. "I was a little wild today but I tried to keep throwing on the outside of the plate and I just settled in," Hennen said.
Madison and Montevideo were playing Saturday afternoon. The loser would be done and the winner adances to play Cottonwood. That winner will play Minneota on Sunday.
The winner of this district advances next week to play the winner of the Southeastern District, which is composed of Hector; Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop; Granite Falls and BOLD.
Cottonwood 010 202 0 — 5 6 3
Minneota 200 400 x — 6 11 5
MINNEOTA (AB-R-H-RBI) Austin DeVlaeminck, c 3-1-2-0; Brock Fox, 1b 3-0-2-0; Alex Pohlen, lf 3-1-1-2; Henry Pesch, rf 3-0-1-0; Preston Nuy, ss 3-1-3-1; Thomas Hennen, p 2-0-1-0; Sam Buysse, cf 0-1-0-0; Brant Buysse, 2b 2-1-0-0; Landon Abraham, dh 3-0-1-1; Blake Nelson, 3b 0-0-0-0; Mark Laleman, cf 3-1-0-0. Totals 25-6-11-4.
COTTONWOOD (AB-R-H-RBI) Chris Berg, cf 4-0-1-0; Jacob Rausch, ss 3-0-1-2; Jacob Neu, 3b 3-0-0-0; Seth Plotz, c 3-1-1-0; Tristan Groff, 1b 4-1-2-1; Conner Dropp, rf 3-0-0-0; Austin Timm, p 4-0-0-0; Lucas Hodges, cr 0-1-0-0; Aaron Lienemann, lf 3-1-1-0; Noah Jensen, 2b 3-0-0-0. Totals 31-5 6-3.
E-Minneota: B. Buysse 2; Nuy 2, Nelson; Cottonwood: Jensen 2; Plotz. LOB-Minneota 6; Cottonwood 11. SB-Minneota: Sam Buysse; Nuy. SAC-Minneota-T, Hennen, Brant Buysse, Fox. DP-Cottonwood 4-6 (1).
Pitlching IP R ER H BB K
T. Hennen 7 5 0 6 2 1
Timm (L) 6 6 3 11 1 2
HP-Neu, Lienemann (by T. Hennen). WP-T. Hennen, Timm.