Amateur baseball: Willmar Rails are all smiles
Willmar beats Clinton 15-1 in its first state tournament game since 2003 to advance to the second round
MIESVILLE — The Willmar Rails are feeling pretty good about themselves after Sunday.
Everything went right for the Rails in their first state tournament in 19 years. They beat the Clinton Cards 15-1 at Jack Ruhr Field.
“Maybe we can be the Cinderella this year,” said an euphoric Dustin Overcash, Willmar’s manager.
The Rails, the third seed from the Region 4C and the third team at state this season from the Corn Belt League, got a solid pitching performance from starter Patrick Courtney and fine relief from draftees Matt Gruber of Starbuck and Nathan Deutz of the Milroy Yankees.
They hammered out 17 hits and jumped all over seven Clinton errors. It enables Willmar to advance to the second weekend of the 48-team, single elimination Class C tournament.
Willmar plays the Delano Athletics at 7 p.m. Saturday in Dundas. Delano is the Section 12C champ.
“I was happy to be here, happy to be playing, not nervous at all,” said Rails first baseman Jack Baumgart, who’ll get to add his name to the state tournament record book.
Baumgart, 22, became the 33rd player in the 99th annual tournament’s history to get five hits. The last to do it was Buckman’s Noah Boser in a 14-6 win over Stewartville-Racine in 2019. The first to do it was Virginia’s Carl Condon in 1932, whose five hits were all likely needed in a 15-14 victory over — believe it or not — the Willmar Rails.
The record is six hits in one game and has been done three times, the first time in 1946 by Walt Menke of Albert Lea in a 23-2 victory over Zumbrota. He’s the only one to do it in a nine-inning game. Howard Lake’s Eric Schreifels did it in 2013 in a 7-6, 17-inning loss to Belle Plaine and Brice Panning had six hits for Young America in a 4-3, 14-inning win over New Market in 2018.
“I’ve never been here (at state),” Baumgart said. “But I’ve played six years in the (Corn Belt) League. I wasn’t going to get nervous.”
Baumgart went 5-for-5 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, three runs and three RBIs. His two-run double in the top of the fifth helped the Rails open up a 4-0 lead and break open what had been a close game.
“Jack was on today,” Overcash said. “He was dialed in. When I had Riley (Lessman) pinch run for him I was thinking about letting Riley hit Jack’s next time up. But then I thought, he could really do something here.”
It stayed 4-0 until the seventh, when the Rails scored three runs. They added three more in the eighth, surrendered a run to Clinton in the bottom of the eighth, then added five more in the ninth. Nine players had hits. Sam Etterman had three, including two doubles and two RBIs. Zach Reierson, Ashton Gregory and Christian Lessman each had two.
It was an easy win and helped the Rails not worry too much who was not in Miesville, like starting shortstop Ian Koosman, who is already practicing for fall ball at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, where Koosman is playing on a scholarship from the Fighting Artichokes.
“I’m 100-percent confident with Christian (Lessman) out there (at short),” Overcash said. “With him playing shortstop the way he is and hitting the way he is, we’re fine.”
Lessman has been the Rails’ ace pitcher most of the season with Courtney getting plenty of key starts. Overcash said Courtney would start against Delano to save Lessman for the final weekend. Lessman is dealing with a tired arm.
Overcash also was breathing easy Sunday after a string of tough, intense games.
“Ever since we won that (Region 4C) play-in game with Sacred Heart, it seems like every one of our games has gone right down to the last inning,” he said. “This is the first time in like 10 games that it wasn’t like that at the end.”
Willmar 15, Clinton 1
Willmar 001 030 335-15 17 1
Clinton 000 000 010-1 6 7
Hitting - Wilmar: Zach Reierson 2-5 r-2 rbi bb hbp, Jordan Steffer 1-5 r sac-2, Ashton Gregory 2-6 r-2 rbi, Jack Baumgart 5-5 r-3 rbi-3 2b bb sb, Riley Lessman 0-0 r, Sam Etterman 3-6 r-2 rbi-2 2b-2, Christian Lessman 2-5 r-2 rbi-3 2b sf, Jayden Dierenfeld 1-5 rbi, Josh Tinklenberg 1-1 rbi-2, Caleb Owens 0-4 r bb hbp … Clinton: Sam Adelman 0-4 bb, Zak Adelman 1-3 bb, Keane Turner 0-4 bb, Lukas Adelman 1-4 r, Mike Adelman 0-2 bb, Josh Haag 1-1, Chance Haugen 2-2 sac, Chris Karsky 1-2 rbi hbp sf
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Willmar: Patrick Courtney (W) 5.2-4-0-0-3-3, Matt Gruber (Starbuck) 1.1-0-0-0-1-2, Nathan Deutz (Milroy Yankees) `2-2-1-1-0-1 … Clinton: Sam Adelman (L) 6.2-8-7-5-2-7, Ryan Tolle 1-4-3-3-0-0, Braxton Thompson (Dawson) 0.1-2-3-3-0-1, L. Adelman 0.1-3-2-1-0-0, Riley Sammon (Ortonville) 0.2-0-0-0-1-1