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HL/O VFW set for District 2 championship tournament

HERON LAKE -- Fresh off four victories in the Southwestern Sub-District VFW baseball tournament, Heron Lake-Okabena -- sponsored by Lakefield Post 4743 -- will play this evening at Dassel in the eight-team District Two Tournament.

HL-O will tangle with Chaska, the champions of the Southeastern Sub-District, at 6:30 p.m.

"We've had a real good year," said HL-O manager Kevin McBreen. "We are older and more experienced this year, and we believed that we could compete with the better teams."

The squad has played often, a total of 31 games, and has competed well. HL-O has won 19 of those games, including four last weekend in the seven-team, double-elimination, sub-district playoffs.

"Our pitchers have been throwing strikes, the kids have played good defense, and we run a lot," said McBreen, who is guiding the program for the third summer.

The last two years, the young team never won a post-season tournament game. But this year, HL-O won four times and brought home the second-place sub-district plaque, qualifying for the next level and a right to challenge for the VFW state tournament.

After beating Fairmont, 7-2, McBreen's troops were defeated by St. James, 7-4.

Facing elimination, HL-O rallied with a trio of impressive victories, defeating Blue Earth (13-7), Fairmont (3-2, in 10 innings) and St. James (14-8) before losing to New Ulm in the championship game, 10-0.

Bouncing back to defeat St. James was satisfying for the club.

"We hit the ball well, got on base and stole a lot of bases," said McBreen. "The kids played hard and had fun."

Thomas Albrecht, William Cranston and Ben Scheevel have done the bulk of the pitching for Post 4743, while Scheevel, Kent Knutson and Derek Stenzel have shared the catching duties.

Shortstop Kirk McBreen is the team's leading hitter, having gone 5-for-5 in one of last weekend's games.

Knutson (first base), Cory Pelzel (second base) and Octavio Jiminez (third base) complete the HL-O infield, while Andrew Rossow, Tyler Obermoller and Mike Stenzel man the outfield positions.

Younger players Garet Rogers and Luke Henkels are versatile performers that have helped the team in many ways.

The tournament continues in Dassel Friday and Saturday.