After starting off the prestigious Gopher Classic with two straight losses, the Grand Rapids Post No. 60 American Legion baseball team won its final three games of the tournament against tough competition to come away with smiles from the tournament.
While Grand Rapids did not advance to the second round with its 3-2 pool play record, it did defeat Omaha Burke, the eventual pool champion which finished with a 4-1 mark.
Post No. 60 played all of its games at the field in St. Michael, Minn.
“We scored enough to win some games but we are still stranding runners and not getting big two-out hits like you need to do in the playoffs,” said Grand Rapids manager Bill Kinnunen. “Hopefully we get that fixed this week.”
Post No. 60 played Taconite on Tuesday and then will entertain Hermantown in a 5:30 p.m. game at Bob Streetar Field on Wednesday. Post No. 60 will then take part in the Princeton Tournament and will open against Hutchinson, a team that beat Grand Rapids in the championship game last year.
Following are results of the games played in the Gopher Classic:
Game No. 1
Chippewa Falls 4
Grand Rapids 2
In the first game of the tournament, Grand Rapids fell to Chippewa Falls, Wis., a highly-rated team, by a 4-2 score in eight innings Friday.
Isaac Gustafson picked up the loss on the mound for Post No. 60, pitching 7 1/3 innings and allowing four runs, three of which were earned. He allowed 10 hits while walking three, striking out four and hitting a batter.
Rapids scored in the first inning to lead 1-0 but Chippewa Falls scored two in the fifth inning to lead 2-1. Grand Rapids tied the game with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning when Grant Anderson singled in Collin Dibbs who had walked to lead off the inning.
A big error by Post No. 60 in the top of the eighth inning went a long way in Chippewa Falls scored two runs and taking a 4-2 advantage.
Brooks Bachmann had two hits for Grand Rapids which had only four hits in the game.
“We had four hits and the bats weren’t really alive yet,” said Kinnunen. “We had a chance to win in the seventh with first and second and nobody out. We got one to tie and we couldn’t get a bunt down and we ended up not scoring the game winner.”
Game No. 2
St. Michael 8
Grand Rapids 0
In a game Friday night, Post No. 60 played its worst game of the tourney by far in losing to the host St. Michael team 8-0.
“We stunk it up and got just three hits,” Kinnunen said. “
Ty Karnes took the loss on the mound for Grand Rapids with just four of the eight runs he yielded being earned.
Post No. 60 had just three hits, singles by Grant Anderson, Brooks Bachmann and Alex McBride.
“We weren’t happy with our performance Friday,” Kinnunen said. “The first game took a little bit out of us. It was a hot 90 degrees and we had a long ride down there but that’s not a excuse. We used to traveling and everybody had to deal with the weather. We just didn’t perform the way we are capable of.”
Game No. 3
Grand Rapids 5
Fridley Gold 4
In its lone game on Saturday, Grand Rapids defeated Fridley Gold – a team made up of players from Totino-Grace High School and the champion of the recent Grand Rapids Invitational – by the score of 5-4 in another eight-inning affair.
“It was a good win for the program and Fridley Gold was ranked eighth in the state going into the game,” Kinnunen explained.
Gideon Beck started on the mound for Post No. 60, pitching 7 1/3 innings and allowing four runs, three of which were earned, while giving up nine hits and striking out five. Brooks Bachmann came on to retire the final hitter in the top of the eighth inning, getting the win while throwing only seven pitches.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Beck led off with a double and Grant Anderson bunted him to third. After Fridley intentionally walked the next two hitters to load the bases with one out, Alex McBride squared on a suicide squeeze attempt but the pitch was in the dirt and squirted past the catcher for a wild pitch as Grand Rapids tallied the winning run.
“Gideon had a big hit with his second double in a row to lead off the inning. It was a good comeback win for us because we needed to score three in the sixth inning,” Kinnunen said. “They scored a run in the seventh to tie it and we scored in the eighth to win it.”
Bachmann had three hits with a run scored while Beck had two doubles, two runs scored and a RBI. Anderson had two hits with a run scored, a RBI and a stolen base and Wyatt Zuehlke had two hits with a double and a RBI.
Game No. 4
Grand Rapids 9
Omaha Burke 0
Grand Rapids defeated Omaha Burke, the defending state champion out of the state of Nebraska, in its first game Sunday by the score of 9-0.
“We came out Sunday morning with the guns blazing,” Kinnunen said “We scored four in the top of the first right off the bat and they didn’t know what hit them.” Post No. 60 scored four more in the top of the fifth inning to lead 9-0, and it won by the eight-run rule after five innings.
Brooks Bachmann was the winning pitcher as he hurled a five-inning three-hit shutout while striking out five and hitting a batter.
Bachmann had two hits, scored two runs and drove in one while Owen Linder had two hits with a RBI. Wyatt Zuehlke had a double, scored two runs and drove in two more.
“We played very well. It was our first round of infield we took all season and I figured we were going to get 10-runned,” Kinnunen smiled. “But we came swinging the bats right away and we had a great start for an early-morning game.”
Game No. 5
Grand Rapids 4
On Sunday afternoon, Post No. 60 finished out the tournament with a 4-3 victory over Chaska.
Rapids tied the game at 3-3 with a run in the top of the sixth inning and it took the lead with another run in the top of seventh inning. The run came when three Grand Rapids were hit by pitches and the run was forced in on a walk to Wyatt Holcomb.
“Chaska just ran out of pitching. We had a lot more pitching than most teams down there so we had four starting pitchers that didn’t even get to touch the field,” Kinnunen said.
Alex McBride picked the win up on the mound pitching seven innings and allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out five and hitting two batters.
Luke Kinnunen had two hits, scored three runs and drove in one run for Post No. 60.
Grand Rapids 2
West Duluth 0
In a big seeding game, Grand Rapids defeated West Duluth 2-0 in the days prior to the Gopher Classic.
West Duluth is made up of players from Duluth Marshall, which won the state Class AA tournament, and Duluth Denfeld, the Section 7AAA title last spring in high school ball.
Post No. 60 used four pitchers who combined on a four-hit shutout. Isaac Gustafson pitched two innings and was the winning pitcher in the contest. Other pitchers seeing mound action were Brooks Bachmann, Ty Karnes and Gideon Beck, who recorded the save in pitching the seventh inning.
“It was a well-pitched game by all four guys,” said Kinnunen. “We wanted everybody to get a couple innings just to stay sharp for the weekend and it worked out well.”
In the top of the fifth inning, a two-run triple by Beck accounted for both Grand Rapids runs. Beck finished with two hits with a triple, two RBIs and a stolen base.