More than 40 years ago, a Springfield baseball star moved to Windom and enjoyed great success as a slugger at Island Park.
History is repeating itself.
Alex Fink, a 28-year-old who graduated from Springfield High in 2012 and then starred at Augustana (S.D.) University, is a high school teacher and newly-named head baseball coach at Windom Area High. He’s also a left-handed long ball hitter who is making headlines as the Windom Pirates make a strong bid for a berth in the Minnesota amateur baseball state tournament.
Longtime southwest Minnesota baseball fans remember when the late Mike Davison was doing the same thing at Windom four decades ago.
“I’ve heard the name a ton,” said Fink. “I did not get the chance to meet him, but yes, everyone in Springfield knows who that was.”
Current ball fans in these parts know about Fink, who homered twice among four hits and knocked in six runs Sunday as Windom defeated the Milroy Irish 8-2. The Pirates won the First Nite League regular-season title and along with the Luverne Redbirds, winners of the Gopher League, have a bye this week as the Region 13C tournament begins.
Fink is enjoying his time in Windom.
“We’re lucky,” he said. “I can’t think of any places better to play than Island Park. Last year was my first year of playing amateur baseball here, and it’s just been a blast. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Fink is pretty much a hitting machine. In high school he helped Springfield High win a state championship in basketball and also starred in football and baseball. In a sparkling four-year career at Augustana he batted .390 with staggering totals of 28 homers, 66 doubles and 214 RBIs.
This season Fink has four homers as the Pirates of manager Nick Kulseth have won 19 of 21 games (17-2 in league games).
“When Fink’s on we’re all on,” said Kulseth. “He’s a great leader for our program and has just an outstanding bat. He’s so laser-focused up there. Really a great hitter.”
In Sunday’s win, ace right-handler Collin Lovell struck out seven and did not allow an earned run while tossing a complete game. Nick Christensen had four hits for Windom, while Noah Kloss and Jacob Johnson had two safeties apiece.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Kulseth said. “We’re not even close to where we want to be. The next part is getting to the state tournament. And then after that the goal is to win the state tournament.”
Windom has earned 19 state tourney berths in a glorious town ball history that dates back to 1936, when the Pirates won the Class A championship.
The best thing about the summer for Kulseth?
“It’s the great group of guys we’ve got,” he said. “It’s so much fun being around the guys, from being in the dugout to on the field or on the bus, they’re just an all-around great group of guys to be around.”
Fink, whose father Bob has for years been a highly successful coach in Springfield, has already made a big impact on Windom baseball. His new position as head coach of the high school program will provide more opportunities to do just that.
“I’ve always wanted to be a head baseball coach and couldn’t think of a better place to get this opportunity,” Alex said. “Windom is a baseball town with a great tradition. I look forward to building on that in the future and can’t wait to get started.”
Meanwhile, the Luverne Redbirds claimed the Gopher League championship after splitting two games last week. Luverne, 20-5 overall and 18-2 in league play, defeated Hadley 14-3 last Tuesday as Isaiah Bartles fired a four-hitter and fanned 11. He also had four hits, as did Ben Serie.
Luverne also dropped a 2-1 decision in 10 innings to Milroy’s Irish last week. Jake Haugen pitched extremely effectively for the Redbirds, who left 14 runners on base.
There are six first-round series in the Region 13C playoffs, and all are best-of-3 affairs. The winners advance and along with Windom and Luverne will face additional best-of-3 playoff series next week. The first round is cross-bracketed between leagues, so the second-place finisher in the Gopher League faces the No. 7 finisher in the First Nite League, the No. 3 Gopher League seed faces No. 6 from the First Nite League, etc.
The Worthington Cubs finished seventh in the First Nite and will take on the Milroy Irish in a series that begins Wednesday in Milroy and continues Friday night in Worthington.
Other first-round series feature the following matchups: Hadley vs. Mountain Lake; Pipestone vs. Heron Lake; Fox Lake vs. Adrian; Jackson vs. Tracy; and Lakefield vs. Ruthton.
In other First Nite and Gopher League action last week it was:
Hadley wins, loses
The Hadley Buttermakers defeated Pipestone 12-5 last Friday behind the eight-strikeout pitching of Jacob Van Dam. Danny Blankenship had three hits, while Max Zwart and Nick Bruning each contributed a pair. Kellan Johnson drove in three runs with a double and sacrifice fly.
On Sunday, the Lakefield Frogs edged Hadley 8-5 in 10 innings. Phil Pronk pitched eight strong innings and Levi Lindley earned the win in relief. Keegan Klontz knocked in five runs.
For Hadley, Blankenship, Bruning and Justin Benda each had two hits.
Mountain Lake 4, Ruthton 3
MOUNTAIN LAKE — Levi Jahnke cracked an RBI double in the bottom of the night as the Lakers earned a walk-off victory.
Jared Baartman threw a complete game for Ruthton.
Adrian, Pipestone top Cubs
In a Friday contest, Adrian defeated Worthington 14-8, though the Cubs came back to close the gap after trailing by 10 runs in the sixth inning. On Sunday, Pipestone blanked the Cubs 11-0 as Brandan Alfson pitched four solid innings to get the win.
Heron Lake 9, Tracy 3
HERON LAKE — Eli Becker tossed a complete game and Matt Madden had four hits as the Lakers defeated the Engineers on Sunday.
Heron Lake also lost two narrow 4-2 decisions earlier in the week, to Ruthton and Windom. Eli Fest pitched very well against the strong Windom team, striking out nine in a pitcher’s duel with Pirates’ star Luke Gilbertson.
Jackson 21, Adrian 3
JACKSON — Chris Gumto had four hits and the Bulls scored 12 runs in the third inning to cruise past the A’s. Evan Olesen, Shad Wacker and Briar Rowley each had three hits.
On Saturday, Jackson defeated the Milroy Yankees 9-4 in a non-league game that was insignificant except for this: Southpaw Ryan Rasche picked up his 73rd career pitching victory, which is tops in Jackson amateur baseball history.