Legion baseball: Mudhens find BOLD new game
The BOLD Warriors baseball team got to celebrate its Class A championship in June’s Minnesota state tournament for exactly one day.
The next day, the BOLD Mudhens’ Legion season began.
“It was tough to go from the high intensity level of high school ball to a more relaxed thing in summer ball,” said the Mudhens’ Logan Sandgren. “In a day, we went from playing at Target Field to playing in Kerkhoven.”
No offense to Kerk was intended, but it illustrates why the 18-5 Mudhens took a little time rounding into the form that leaves them three wins from claiming another baseball championship.
BOLD is host to this weekend’s Minnesota Divison II Legion State Tournament in Bird Island. The Mudhens open the tournament against Providence Academy at 7 p.m. today.
As host, the Mudhens receive an automatic berth in the tournament. But the freebie wasn’t necessary: BOLD was impressive in winning the District 7 championship in Montevideo last week.
First, the Mudhens won 8-2 over Osakis, which was essentially the same team BOLD defeated in the high school Class A title game five weeks earlier. Then, in the second round, BOLD rebounded from a five-run deficit to defeat Morris 6-5.
Morris, which made the state tournament field as the District 7 runner-up, had no more luck solving the Mudhens in the district championship game, falling 3-1 on Saturday.
After a 3-3 start to their summer, the Mudhens have won six straight games and 15 of their last 17.
“We had a streak there where we were in a little slump, coming down from the (high school) state tournament,” said BOLD’s Riley Kramer. “Coming down from that high was kind of expected. Our attention wasn’t there the first couple of weeks. But we picked it up from there and we’ve been doing well lately.”
The Mudhens’ core — Sandgren, Kramer, Tyler Seehusen, Trent Athmann, Tyler Rock, Trevor Nissen — was the same that led BOLD to the state championship, but their mindset needed recalibration, Sandgren said.
“We just had to forget about who we were during the high school season and think more about how we had to prove something on the Legion level,” Sandgren said.
Players got some needed rest while younger players got to fill in, in the field and on the mound, and the team’s regulars put up good numbers in unexpected roles.
The stalwarts produced, as usual. Seehusen led the team with a .494 average, 7 triples and 31 runs batted in, and he tied Kramer for the team lead with 8 doubles. Athmann hit .426 and worked his typical stellar game behind the plate. Kramer hit .446 and drove in 24 runs, Nissen hit .333, tied Seehusen for the team home run lead with three and he had 18 RBIs.
Rock hit .328 and tied Athmann for the team stolen base lead with 11, and Lane Stadther hit .328, drove in 12 runs and stole 6 bases
Sandgren and Kramer, as they did during BOLD’s remarkable state tournament run, were exemplary on the mound. Sandgren was 5-2 with a 1.94 earned-run average and Kramer was 4-1 with a 1.70 ERA.
But then there were players who didn’t see a lot of varsity time in the postseason, like Ben Steffel, who hit .271, drove in 10 runs and stole 8 bags this summer.
Sawyer Tersteeg, the BOLD prep team’s regular third baseman when Kramer was pitching, showed he was pretty solid on the hill, too, with a 3-0 record. He recorded the Mudhen’s lone save and had a team-best 0.71 ERA in almost 20 innings pitched this summer.
Seehusen, Rock and Nissen also took the ball for a combined 46.2 innings this summer and each won two games.
“After the high school season, some guys needed a break, for sure,” Kramer said. “It’s a lot of baseball (from May through July). We had a lot of games scheduled but we had some guys come in and play really well.”
Best of all, the locked-in team chemistry from the spring carried over into the Legion season, Kramer said.
“We all work well together and we all get along,” he said. “It’s been a pretty fun ride since May so I wouldn’t say anything has changed. We’re in good a position for the state tournament, I’d say.”
The Mudhens, like BOLD was during the prep season, will be challenged this weekend. Sandgren, the Mudhens’ likely game-one starter, will probably square off against Providence Academy’s Ryan Tapani, son of former Minnesota Twin Kevin Tapani, in Friday’s opener.
The Lions enter the tournament on an 11-game winning streak and they are 15-3 overall. Their high school team, which is coached by Kevin Tapani, was 11-6 this spring, with five wins coming in the postseason. They finished with eight wins in their final 10 games.
But the Mudhens are in playoff mode, once again, Sandgren said.
“I still think we have more to show,” Sandgren said. “We haven’t played our best baseball this summer. There’s always something to be worked on. I still think we can play our best game.”
And hoisting another championship trophy before the hometown fans might be just as sweet at Lions Memorial Park in Bird Island as it was on that perfect, sun-splashed June day at Target Field.
“It would be big,” Sandgren said, “having the home crowd there and all that good stuff.”