Adrian American Legion had pair of runs to district tournament in the 1970s
ADRIAN -- Last weekend in Springfield, Adrian's American Legion baseball team defeated Blue Earth, 7-6, in an eight-inning thriller to claim the Second District championship, sending Post 32 to this weekend's state tournament in Ely.
Twice in the 1970s, Adrian experienced legion baseball playoff success, advancing to the district tournament in both 1976 and 1979.
"We were young in '76," recalled Jim Lutmer, who was a key player on both of those squads. "Vince Mulder was our coach that year, and he really got things going for us."
Mulder, who also was the player/coach of the Countryside Inn fastpitch softball team, organized a youthful team of energetic players in the summer of 1976 -- when Georgia governor Jimmy Carter was campaigning for the presidency, and U.S. decathlete Bruce Jenner was preparing for his gold medal push at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Montreal.
The highlight of that first season came at Worthington's Buss Field on Monday evening, Aug. 2, when a good-sized crowd watched Adrian win the Sub-District 4 championship with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Luverne.
Tied at 2-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, Adrian's Jim Bauer led off with a single and later raced home with the winning run on an RBI infield hit by Larry Vortherms.
Steve Lutmer pitched a four-hitter for Adrian, striking out six Luverne hitters.
"He was our ace," recalled Mulder. "Steve was a good left-handed pitcher and was tough in the clutch."
Mike Lutmer -- Jim's older brother and Steve's cousin -- was a power-hitting catcher on that team, which had the following line-up and batting order in the 1976 sub-district championship game:
Rick Bullerman, second base; Larry Vortherms, left field; Marty Krogman, third base; Jim Lutmer, first base; Jack Boomgaarden, shortstop; Mike Lutmer, catcher; Steve Brake, right field; Jim Bauer, center field and Steve Lutmer, pitcher.
Bill Korth pinch-hit for Bullerman in that game, and John Loosbrock, Jerry Brake and Scott Bauer all contributed to the team's success.
"We had fun," declared Mulder. "Winning was a bonus."
Steve Brake had a pair of hits, including an RBI double in that championship game, while Jim Lutmer and Boomgaarden also had hits -- along with Vortherms and Jim Bauer -- giving Adrian six for the game. Brake and Boomgaarden had scored Post 32's earlier runs.
"That was exciting -- winning the championship," said Jim Lutmer. "Playing at Worthington and beating Luverne was a big thing for us."
Adrian had advanced to the title game by winning a 1-0 pitcher's duel over Brewster at Buss Field a week earlier on July 26.
Both Steve Lutmer and Brewster's Glenn Rogers tossed two-hitters in that game. But Adrian pushed across the game's lone run in the third inning when Krogman drew a walk and scored after Boomgaarden and Mike Lutmer smacked back-to-back hits.
After winning the sub-district, the team traveled to Sleepy Eye for the Second District Tournament, as did area sub-district championship teams from Pipestone and Okabena.
All three area teams were defeated in the first round. Blue Earth beat Okabena (10-1), Sleepy Eye topped Pipestone (5-2) and Redwood Falls -- despite getting just four hits off Adrian pitching -- blanked Post 32 by a 12-0 score, being aided by an uncharacteristic eight errors by Adrian's defense.
Mike Bloom's solo home run produced Okabena's only score in the team's loss to Blue Earth.
Okabena had advanced with a 5-3 Sub-District Two championship victory over Windom as Doug Mittlestadt (4-for-4), Tom DeWall (3-for-3) and Kevin Pomerenke (RBI single) carried big sticks for Post 608.
After having good seasons again in both '77 and '78, a veteran Adrian Legion team earned its way back to the Second District Tournament in 1979.
"We were older and bigger in '79," said Jim Lutmer. "We won a pair of close games over Pipestone and Luvene to win the sub-district. Then we beat Northrop in the district before losing to both Sleepy Eye and Jackson."
It was Lutmer who had the game-winning RBI in both the Pipestone and Luverne victories.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning against Pipestone, Adrian's Steve Klein singled and stole second. Lutmer's two-out single scored Klein with the game-winner.
In the championship game versus Luverne, it was Jerry Henning who scored the game-winning run -- streaking home on an RBI double by Lutmer, giving Adrian a 3-2 win.
Scott Bauer pitched for Adrian in both victories, twirling a seven-hitter in the Luverne victory.
In a 13-9 win over Worthington during the regular season, Henning had a big day at the plate as he stroked a single, a double and a home run.
"We played together for a lot of years," Lutmer summarized. "After we were too old for legion, we organized the 'town team' -- the A's -- and played for about a dozen years."
Bullerman, who was just a little guy when Adrian made its first trip to Sleepy Eye in 1976, developed into a power hitter himself as he grew. An accomplished infielder, Rick agreed with Lutmer when asked about his memories of those years.
"It was the camaraderie of playing with all those guys," Bullerman concluded. "We sure had a lot of fun together."
That kind of fun -- and a solid baseball tradition -- has continued over the decades in Adrian.