ST. CLOUD — The height of Ian Koosman’s vertical jump was the difference between Willmar Post 167 advancing to the final eight or suffering a late-game collapse.
Luckily, Koosman has some hops. And now, Willmar is in the championship bracket of the 95th Annual MN Division I State Tournament after beating Fridley Gold 7-6 at Joe Faber Field.
When asked the last time he had to jump that high, Koosman said with a laugh, “It’s been a while.”
He added, “I saw it and I thought ‘Geez, that thing’s smoked.’ I just tried to jump high and caught it. Right in the web.”
Post 167 finished second in pool play with a 2-1 record. They will face the winner of Pool 1 at 10:30 a.m. Saturday back at Faber Field. Teams in Pool 1 are Grand Rapids, Rosemount, Tri-City Red (Hill-Murray) and the St. Cloud Chutes (Cathedral).
Fridley — composed of players from Totino-Grace High School — had the game-winning run at third base as Charlie Eibensteiner stepped into the batter’s box. Eibensteiner made contact with a pitch from Cayden Hansen that looked like a line drive to left-center.
That was until Koosman flashed the leather with a leaping grab that preserved Post 167’s victory.
“(Thursday) night, we had a couple mental mistakes and that happened again today,” said Willmar head coach Doug Ruter. “When you play every day and you play a couple games a day, it wears on you. It wears on the other team, too.
“You just got to keep battling and try to keep your heads up. And the kids responded.”
The win didn’t come easy for Willmar, which was in sharp contrast to the start of the game that saw Post 167 take a 7-0 lead after the top of the fourth.
Ian Koosman had a pair of RBI hits early with a single in the first and a double in the second. He was Willmar’s top hitter on the afternoon, going 3-for-4.
“We just saw the ball well,” Koosman said.
Alex Schramm led off the top of the second with a solo home run over the ivy fence in left field. In the fourth, Sam Etterman scored on a wild pitch and Dylan Arndorfer reached home on a Brandt Sunder triple.
Hunter Magnuson, who was 2-for-3 with a run scored, said Fridley starter Brennan Blake threw “A good hitting velocity.”
“It was really easy to see the ball, too,” he added.
On defense, Post 167 held Fridley to one hit over the first three innings. With pitching depth running low, Willmar pulled Etterman off the mound after two innings and 25 pitches, giving him the opportunity to pitch Saturday if the team advanced.
However, Post 167’s offense went cold. After tallying 10 hits off Blake, reliever Garrett Glynn did not surrender a hit over the final four innings, allowing his team a chance to chip away at the deficit.
“I don’t know if (Glynn) was any better. I don’t know if we weren’t seeing the ball well or he was mixing up his pitches better,” Magnuson said.
Ruter added, “I have confidence in Cayden (on the mound) but I thought we’d chip in another run or two here or there. We just didn’t keep scoring.”
Trailing 7-5, Fridley had bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. But, Willmar got out of the jam when they caught Glynn in a pickle between third and home, tagging him for the final out. An inning later, it was Koosman’s web gem that thwarted the Fridley comeback for good.
“I was just relieved to get the dub,” Koosman said.
Magnuson said, “It got us to tomorrow.”