Legion winning close games
After holding on for a 4-2 victory over Prescott at home last Wednesday, the River Falls American Legion Post 121 baseball team went 2-2 at a weekend tournament in Chippewa Falls with all four games decided by one run.
River Falls opened the tournament with a 3-2 loss to Wausau and beat Union Grove 3-2 on Saturday. Sunday they defeated Green Bay, 11-10, before dropping a 4-3 decision to Marshfield.
The Post 121 team will be back in action at Burnsville, Minn. Wednesday, July 3 and host Menomonie Monday, July 8 and Hudson Tuesday, July 9. The Hudson game will be Throwback Night at the Ballpark with River Falls wearing the old green Legion uniforms.
Last Wednesday against Prescott, River Falls scored three runs in the bottom of the first and that was all starting pitcher James Witt needed as he mowed down 10 Prescott batters on strikes on his way to a complete-game, 4-2 victory.
"Our defense is starting to improve and James Witt pitched a great game," River Falls coach Mark Hallberg said. "He was able to throw to both sides of the plate and use his off-speed effectively to keep their hitters off-balance."
Michael Wesner led off the bottom of the first with a single and scored on a base hit by Sam Barr and after Kyle Duex and Mason Woiwode drew back-to-back two-out walks, Jon Krueger delivered both runners with a double.
River Falls increased its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth when Jake Halling singled, moved to second on a base hit by Wesner and scored on a single by Logan Schmidt.
Schmidt finished with three hits in the win and Wesner had two while Krueger and Woiwode each had a double.
Witt allowed the first two Prescott batters of the game to reach base before retiring 17 of the next 18 batters he faced. He allowed five hits and walked four while striking out 10.
Saturday, in the first game of the Chippewa Falls Tournament, Wausau scored twice in the bottom of the sixth and held on for a 3-2 victory over River Falls.
"This was a tough one for us," Hallberg said. "Our team had several opportunities to put Wausau away and didn't quite execute in fundamental situations. To Wausau's credit, they hung around and got the big two out hit in the bottom of the sixth."
River Falls took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on an RBI single by Schmidt but Wausau answered with a run in the bottom of the inning to tie the score.
River Falls took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth when Woiwode and Krueger drew back-to-back walks and Woiwode scored on a base hit by pinch-hitter Witt.
Wesner finished with two hits to lead River Falls at the plate and pitched the first three innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with one strikeout and two walks. Krueger worked the final three innings and took the loss, giving up two earned runs on two hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
River Falls scored single runs in the first, third and fifth innings in the second game against Union Grove on their way to a 3-2 victory.
"Unlike the first game of the tournament we executed better with runners in scoring position," Hallberg said. "Our team is starting to see the value and importance of a lost art in my opinion which is bunting. Our guys have worked hard on bunting and we ended up with the good result because we executed our bunts."
Schmidt and Barr had back-to-back one-out singles in the first and each moved up a base on a sac bunt by Duex before Schmidt scored the game's first run on a passed ball.
Post 121 increased its lead to 2-0 in the third on a sacrifice fly by Barr that scored Wesner. They made it a 3-0 game when Schmidt singled and eventually scored on a groundout by Duex in the fifth.
Brady Stocker kept Union Grove off the scoreboard for five innings before allowing a pair of runs in the sixth. Halling came in to earn the save in relief.
"The real story of the game was Brady Stocker," Hallberg said. "Brady pitched a great ball game and gave us a big boost. He did a great job attacking hitters. This was the best ball game I've seen Brady pitch and hopefully he builds from this experience."
Sunday against Green Bay, the Post 121 team led 11-2 in the fifth inning before holding on for an 11-10 win.
"We had our best offensive game of the tournament," Hallberg said. "We put a lot of pressure on their defense and ran the bases aggressively. After being up by nine runs in the fifth inning it got a little dicey but the guys held on and made some big plays when they had to."
Barr went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBI but sprained his ankle late in the game, forcing him to miss the final game against Marshfield. Brian Grove had two hits, including a double, and two RBI while Witt and Stocker had two hits and an RBI each.
Woiwode, Halling, Bryce Lindevig and Grove all saw action on the mound.
River Falls dropped the final game of the tournament to Marshfield, 4-3, despite a strong effort on the mound from Duex.
"Kyle Duex battled and pitched his tail off," Hallberg said. "He competed really well and gave our team a chance. Our guys played good defense and played good small ball early in the game. Our bats went a bit stale during the middle innings and hopefully we learn from this and try some new strategies to get on base and put pressure on the defense. To Marshfield's credit they made one more play than us in this game."