Willmar Legion wins, loses at state

NEW ULM -- The Willmar American Legion baseball team advanced to the second day of the American Legion Division I State baseball tournament Thursday.

NEW ULM -- The Willmar American Legion baseball team advanced to the second day of the American Legion Division I State baseball tournament Thursday.

Willmar upset No. 2-ranked Hopkins in the first round 5-4, but lost to No. 1 Apple Valley, 9-1.

Post 167 will play Grand Rapids in a loser's bracket game at 10 a.m. today at Mueller Park in New Ulm.

Willmar 5, Hopkins 4

Jordan Smith pitched a complete game, struck out 16 batters and drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.


Willmar coach Dave Oehrlein said he went with Smith as the starter for the tournament opener because the team's goal is to win.

"I figured we're going to go with our strengths no matter what," he said. "We came down here to win games and we're going to give it our very best shot."

After giving up four runs in the first two innings -- including a two-run error in the second -- Willmar chipped away at Hopkin's lead with a run in the third, then tied the game in the fifth with three runs.

"We seem to be shaky the first couple of innings in every game we play," said Willmar coach Dave Oehrlein.

In the bottom of the ninth, Willmar (15-9) got the rally going with Logan Birkland's leadoff double to right field. Austin Adamson walked, followed by Jordan Smith's third hit of the game, a single to right. Logan Birkland, taking off from second base, slid under the tag at home plate to score the winning run.

"We just battled. The defense cleaned it up and Jordan dominated the game the rest of the way," Oehrlein added.

Smith, who allowed five hits and walked seven batters, struck out Hopkins' No. 6 hitter four times and the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters three times each. He also went 3-for-5 with a double and three RBI.

In the fifth, Willmar took advantage of two Hopkins' errors with Smith's two-run single and John Sawatzky's RBI single.


Alec Saunders got Willmar on the scoreboard in the third with a double to score Adamson, who went hitless but scored two runs.

Hopkins 130 000 000 -- 4 5 3

Willmar 001 030 001 -- 5 8 3

HITTING - Hopkins: Kyle Dalton 4-for-4, rbi; Max Forster 1-for-5, 3b ... Willmar: Logan Birkland 1-for-5, 2 runs, 2b; Jordan Smith 3-for-5, 2b, 3 rbi; Alec Saunders 1-for-3, 2b, rbi; John Sawatzky 1-for-4, rbi; Josh Oestreich 1-for-4; Andrew Bangen 1-for-4

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Hopkins: Matt Rowley 5-6-4-2-4-5; Chez Shaw (L) 3-2-1-1-2-5 ... Willmar: Jordan Smith (W) 9-5-4-2-7-16

Apple Valley 9, Willmar 1

Willmar trailed Apple Valley, the top-ranked team in the state, 3-1 through the first six innings.

"John (Sawatzky) was doing a good job of keeping their batters off balance," said Oehrlein. "Then we had a few errors."


Those errors led to a six-run seventh for Apple Valley and chased Sawatzky from the mound.

Post 167 scored its lone run in the third, plating Andrew Bangen on a double play.

Jordan Smith went 3-for-4 with two doubles to lead Willmar.

Apple Valley 200 100 600 -- 9 10 1

Willmar 001 000 000 -- 1 6 3

HITTING - Apple Valley: Matt Gurtchess 2-for-5; Scott Stlett 2-for-5, 3b; Adam Geatz 1-for-4; Boomer Helmes 1-for-3 ... Willmar: Logan Birkland 1-for-4; Jordan Smith 3-for-4, 2 2b's; Alec Saunders 1-for-4; John Sawatzky 1-for-4

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Apple Valley: Blake Fanger (W) 9-6-1-1-3-9 ... Willmar: John Sawatzky (L) 623-10-9-3-1-2; Austin Adamson 213-0-0-0-1-0

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