DELANO — Friday’s American Legion Baseball playoff matchup between Willmar Post 167 and Waconia Post 150 seemingly had it all. There were home runs, clutch hits, exchanging leads, and an unexpected end with a walk-off walk to give Post 167 a 6-5 win and a berth in the Sub-State 15 finals.
After an intense fifth and sixth innings and the game tied at five, Post 167 literally walked into a victory at Delano Municipal Park.
To start the bottom of the seventh, Post 167 batter Brandt Sunder walked against Waconia pitcher Erik Haugland, who replaced the team’s starting pitcher, Max Shanklin.
Willmar batter Jett Salonek singled, bringing Sunder to second. But Waconia got two outs in quick order when Hunter Magnuson hit into a double play. During the play, Sunder advanced to third.
With the next batter, Ian Koosman, nearing a walk, Post 150 coach Mike Friedrich ordered an intentional walk not just on Koosman, but the upcoming batter in Andrew Baumgart to load the bases for Willmar.
Mason Madsen stepped up to the plate in a pinch-hitting situation. After obtaining a full-count and with the entire ball park on edge, another ball resulted in Sunder coming home with his arms outstretched for victory and Post 167 greeting Madsen as he strolled to first for the walk-off walk
“Good teams win ugly,” Post 167 coach Doug Ruter said. “We just find ways to win. They’re just a winning group of kids, it’s exciting.”
Post 167 outfielder Alex Schramm played a critical role in the victory, hitting 1-for-3 with a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth. He also scored twice.
“It’s pretty special, you dream about this stuff,” Schramm said. “It’s just really fun and I hope we can continue winning.”
Schramm started the bottom of the fifth by reaching second on an error, then got to third on another Waconia error as they attempted to pick off Dylan Arndorfer at first.
Following a mound visit, Willmar’s Cayden Hansen recorded a single, driving home Schramm.
Arndorfer and Hansen scored later in the inning, resulting in a 3-1 lead.
Waconia answered swiftly, scoring four runs on four hits and two Willmar errors to take back the lead, 5-3.
In the bottom of the sixth, Baumgart got on first on a walk to start the inning but was out at second on fielder’s choice on a Sam Etterman grounder.
With one out and Etterman on first, Schramm cracked a ball over the hedges in left field for a clutch two-run homer, tying the game at 5-5. The home run ignited the fans and the Post 167 dugout, which emptied out to greet Schramm at the plate.
“Off the bat I was just kind of watching it like ‘I hope this just gets over his head,” Schramm said. “I just thought it was going to bounce and hit the fence but it just kept going and went over. It was really exciting.”
Ruter added, “Alex has hit a few balls over the fence this year that were foul, he’s hit some that hit the fence, but today he got a hold of one and I am so happy for him and this team.”
Following the dinger, Willmar closed out the top of the seventh by downing Post 150 in order. In the bottom half of the inning, Madsen got the walk-off walk.
Ruter explained what he told his boys in the late exchanges between Waconia leading into the final inning.
“I wanted them to keep their head and keep playing and keep taking it one play at a time,” Ruter said. “We were the home team, we had the chance to close it out in the bottom of the seventh and we did.”
Will will face Buffalo Post 270 in the Sub-State 15 championship, starting at 1 p.m. at Municipal Park. If Buffalo wins the first game, then a second game will be played at 4 p.m. Post 270 advanced through the elimination bracket after beating Hutchinson (10-7) and Waconia (8-5) on Friday.
Waconia 100 004 0-5 10 3
Willmar 000 032 1-6 5 2
Hitting - Waconia: Max Kalenberg 1-3 bb sb, Diego Ramirez 1-4 r, Sam Koppi 1-4, Jorge Toledo 2-4 rbi, Max Grundhofer 1-3 bb, Owen Amrhein 2-4 r, Caedmon Gillmore 2-3 r rbi-2, Erik Haugland 0-2 r hbp, Tanner Micke 0-3 r … Willmar: Jett Salonek 2-3 rbi sf, Hunter Magnuson 1-4 rbi, Alex Schramm 1-3 hr r-2 rbi-2, Cayden Hansen 1-3 r rbi, Mason Madsen 0-0 rbi bb, Dylan Arndorfer 0-3 r, Brandt Sunder 0-1 r bb sac
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Waconia: Max Shanklin 6-4-5-2-2-6, Haugland (L) 2/3-1-1-1-4-0 … Willmar: Sam Etterman 5 2/3-9-5-1-1-4, Hansen (W) 1 1/3-1-0-0-1-1