Legion takes Mankato titleAfter playing just two of seven scheduled games to start the season, the River Falls American Legion baseball team showed no signs of rust as it played four games in three days at the Mankato, Minn., Tournament over the weekend.
By: Bob Burrows, River Falls Journal
After playing just two of seven scheduled games to start the season, the River Falls American Legion baseball team showed no signs of rust as it played four games in three days at the Mankato, Minn., Tournament over the weekend.
River Falls went 4-0 at the tournament , including a 6-5 extra-inning win over Litchfield in Sunday’s title game to bring home the tourney championship.
“It was a very fun weekend for our team,” coach Ryan Bishop said. “Not only did we win the tournament, but we had to come from behind to win three of our four games. Any time you do that you gain confidence, and that confidence showed in the way the boys handled themselves when being down. To come back and win the championship in extra innings made for an exciting end to the weekend.”
The Legion had scheduled games against New Richmond and Fridley, Minn., wiped out by rain last Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing the number of rainouts to five this season.
That didn’t seem to matter in Friday’s tournament opener at Mankato. After falling behind 3-0 early, River Falls outscored New Ulm 13-2 over the final five innings to post a 13-5 victory.
Later Friday it fought back from a 4-3 deficit to post an 8-5 win over Austin, Minn. Saturday it defeated Lake Crystal, Minn., 4-2, before coming from behind twice Sunday against Litchfield to eventually win, 6-5, in eight innings.
After Litchfield scored two unearned runs in the first, River Falls took advantage of a pair of Litchfield errors with two unearned runs of its own an inning later to tie the score.
Litchfield took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second an RBI single by Zach Balsiger tied things up again in the top of the third.
River Falls took its first lead of the game in the top of the fifth when J. P. Feyereisen and Colin Pechacek singled and scored on a double by Marty Herum. Litchfield tied it up at 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth and after neither team scored in the seventh the game headed to extra innings.
With Alex Call on second and with two outs in the top of the eighth, Ryan Kusilek hit a sharp liner to center and Call barely beat the throw home to give River Falls a 6-5 lead.
Litchfield had a runner on third with no outs in the bottom of the eighth, but River Falls pitcher Jack Herum induced an infield pop-up for the first out, then River Falls denied Litchfield’s suicide squeeze attempt at home for the second out. A ground out ended the game and gave River Falls the tourney title.
Jack Herum tossed the complete game win, giving up five runs on six hits while striking out six and walking one.
“We had a couple costly errors but Jack did a great job keeping us in the game and ultimately picking up a well-deserved win,” Bishop said.
In the tourney opener against New Ulm, Pechacek hit a two-run homer and Balsiger had a solo shot as River Falls came back from an early deficit to post a 13-5 victory. Kusilek and Nate Soley each had three hits in the win and Feyereisen was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI while Call contributed a pair of base hits.
River Falls scored seven runs in the sixth to break the game open.
“It was a slow start at the plate for us coming off a week of rainouts,” Bishop noted. “Balsiger’s home run in the sixth finally jump started our offense and we rolled from there. It was good to see our guys battle from behind and get the job done in the end.”
Josh Halling started but only went two innings, giving up three runs on only two hits but had six walks. Isaac Witt got the win in relief, giving up two runs, none earned, on five hits while striking out two and walking two.
“Isaac did a great job coming on in relief,” Bishop said. “He threw strikes and used the defense to make plays behind him.”
In the second game of the tournament against Austin, Feyereisen hit a two-run homer in the fifth to give River Falls a 4-3 lead and Balsiger’s second two-run double of the game in the sixth gave the locals some insurance in an 8-5 victory.
Feyereisen picked up the complete game win, giving up five runs, two earned, on four hits while striking out 10 and walking six.
“The game was closer than it should have been,” Bishop said. “Anytime you give up more runs than hits you know you didn’t play your best. We had a couple untimely errors and J. P. had a few too many walks. But in the end it was good to see J. P. buckle down when he had to.”
Against Crystal Lake, Pechacek had a pair of hits, including a double, and drove in two runs and Soley had an RBI double in a 4-2 River Falls victory.
Call also had two hits in the win, including a double, while Halling added a pair of singles and scored a run.
Jake Kerr tossed the complete game win, giving up two runs on eight hits while striking out one and walking two.
“Jake did a nice job attacking the strike zone and making them earn their way on base today,” Bishop said.
River Falls is now 6-0 on the season and will play a doubleheader at Chippewa Falls on Thursday.