Post 32 loose and ready to compete at state tournament
ADRIAN -- A seven hour bus trip, nearly 500 miles and the defending champions is all that stands in the way of the Adrian American Legion baseball team this weekend at the Division II state tournament in Ely.
Adrian Post 32 (22-7) will face Jordan (27-1) at 5 p.m. Friday.
Jordan qualified as the champions from the Third District.
"Jordan is 27-1, but anybody can beat anybody," Adrian head coach Greg Kruger said. "I think we'll be ready to play. If they (Adrian players) are loose like this, we'll be good."
Brandon Diekmann, who will walk on at South Dakota State next year, also feels the team is loose.
"The way we're playing right now, we're playing loose and fun, so I think we can beat anybody," Diekmann said. "Everybody's been having a good time, and our hitting has been coming together."
The Jordan club is virtually unknown to the Adrian team, but luckily Kruger has a resource who knows the team well -- Pipestone Area coach Rick Zollner.
The Jordan school team defeated Pipestone 16-3 in the Class AA state tournament in June.
"With what he said, they aren't great hitters, but you have to throw curveballs," Kruger said.
Experienced ace Cody Kontz is slated to get the ball on Friday. Kontz has thrown the most innings (43.2) for Adrian, and has one of the lowest ERA's on the team (4.15).
Kontz is no slouch at the plate either. He is hitting .358 and leads the team with two home runs.
However, Cody's younger brother Jordan is also an offensive force to reckon with.
Jordan is hitting .452 and has driven in 12 runs. Glen Kruger leads the way offensively with a .459 average and 26 RBI.
The Adrian team departed this morning in an effort to reach Ely by this afternoon. The team was able to charter a bus for the players.
"It's pretty cool, we get to take a charter up there, so that's pretty awesome," Jordan Kontz said. "It should be pretty fun."
Other members of the team are also looking forward to the trip.
"It should be a fun experience going all the way up to Ely too," Brett Nowotny said.
"It will be a wild ride, but it will be fine," Kruger said.
Adrian is one of the smaller towns being represented at the state tournament, but that doesn't bother the players.
"We're a small town playing against the big ones; we'll show what we got," Diekmann said.
Even though Adrian will face a tough opponent, Cody Kontz is concerned with keeping the team focused.
"(We'll) try and not let them get distracted by all the hoopla and all the junk that goes on outside the games, and try to keep everyone's head on straight," Kontz said.
Adrian qualified for the state tournament with a 7-6 victory over Blue Earth last weekend.
"I liked it, it was fun," Jordan Kontz said. "I'm still excited about it."
Post 32 was in the winner's bracket, and had two chances to win just one game.
"I felt better when we had to win just one game instead of us being the guys with the one loss," Nowotny said.
While it took eight innings for Adrian to claim the victory, Matt Gades said the close game will be an advantage.
"It gives you more experience too, because you're playing in a close game, so you know how to win the close games," Gades said.
For the Adrian players, they will have a chance to play at state, after the Adrian High School team narrowly missed that chance last spring.
"We're going for something that we get a second chance at, doing what we wanted to do," Diekmann said.
"It's real special," Kruger said. "We're the only team left in our area, so it's not just special to the seniors going out, but it's special to everyone."
For the athletes that will be on the Adrian football team this fall, they will not have any time off between the diamond and the gridiron.
Monday marks the first day of football practice with an 8 a.m. start.
"Summer's fun, but sports are the main concentration," Gades said.
But before the Dragons pad up to defend their Little Sioux Conference championship, the Adrian legion team still has a few games to go.
"If we play tight, we won't be good at all, but if we play loose, we'll be just fine," Diekmann said.