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Legion baseball: Summer heating up with district tournaments about to begin

Sometimes you don't need to be overpowering. Sometimes it's good enough just to be good enough. Heron Lake-Okabena, which completed a less-than-stellar high school baseball season in the spring, has played well enough in the summer to go in as th...

Sometimes you don’t need to be overpowering. Sometimes it’s good enough just to be good enough.

Heron Lake-Okabena, which completed a less-than-stellar high school baseball season in the spring, has played well enough in the summer to go in as the No. 3 seed from its sub-section tournament into the Second District American Legion tournament, which begins today in Springfield.

Head coach Lucas Knutson’s HL-O summer team will bring a 7-8 record into its 11 a.m. first-round game against Minnesota Lake.

“Our pitching has been pretty solid for the most part. It isn’t overpowering, but the kids are throwing strikes and giving us a chance,” Knutson said Thursday. “They’re keeping the ball over the plate and keeping our defense active.”

Right-hander Isaac Fest threw a complete game victory against a very good Pipestone team in the Sub-Section A tournament. Righties Logan Knutson and David Volk and left-hander Trey Cranston have also pitched well.

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Meanwhile, fans are taking notice.

“We’ve had a pretty good fan following, especially that Sunday night game (a 4-3 win over Edgerton that gave the team its district berth),” said coach Knutson, who still considers his team an underdog in the districts.

“But anything can happen,” he added.

In other first-round Second District games (all in Springfield), Luverne takes on Truman at 2 p.m., Adrian plays Wabasso at 5 p.m. and Springfield competes with Blue Earth at 8 p.m. More games are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with the final rounds set for July 22 and 23.

Meanwhile, Worthington Post 5 will open its sub-state tournament in New Ulm at 1 p.m. on Wednesday against Mankato American. Ironically, Worthington finished its regular season schedule Thursday night against that same Mankato American team.

Post 5 will go in Wednesday as the No. 5 seed. Mankato American is seeded fourth.

Other first-round action Wednesday in New Ulm has Mankato National playing Faribault or New Prague at 10 a.m., Jordan playing Sleepy Eye at 4 p.m. and New Ulm facing Fairmont at 7 p.m.

The tournament continues July 21-23.

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One Second District team that probably doesn’t feel like an underdog is Luverne, which began the summer with a 1-5 record but now sits at 7-5. Coach Barry Shelton said the entire team has improved since the beginning of the season.

“I’m impressed with our defense and our pitching,” he said. “It’s more of a team situation where they’ve all picked it up. It’s not just one player.”

Leadership is provided by seniors Connor Crabtree (pitcher/center-field), Jakob Olson (catcher), Cole Bosch (first base), Nick Overgaard (outfield/pitcher) and Connor Sandbulte (second base).

“The key is pitching -- if we get the same pitching we have been,” said Shelton, who notes that Truman -- Luverne’s first-round opponent -- is a free-swinging club with solid batters in positions one through five.

Adrian started the American Legion season a little later than most teams due to the Dragons’ appearance in the state Class A high school tournament. Head coach Lance Rogers brings a 4-3 team into the Springfield tourney.

The team has been led by stalwarts Logan Rogers (pitcher) and Michael Preuss (infield), although Preuss -- a superlative all-around ballplayer -- will miss the first weekend due to a prior commitment. Fortunately for Adrian, Logan Rogers can dominate a game all by himself from the pitcher’s rubber.

Lance Rogers (Logan’s father) says Logan took a couple of weeks off after the high school season ended and his arm is now strong. The coach won’t say, however, if Logan will start the first district game against Wabasso, a team the Dragons defeated 1-0 in the high school section tournament.

Lance appears more concerned about his team’s bats.

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“Our offense needs to come alive,” he said Thursday.

As for head coach Tim Gaul and his Worthington Post 5 squad, facing Mankato American in the first round of its sub-state tourney made for interesting strategy Thursday night. Gaul elected to start Easton Sauerbrei on the mound in the regular season finale, and he plans to start Tucker Sorenson in the playoff game.

“They’re both excellent pitchers. That’s just where we are in the rotation,” he said.

He also said he would approach Thursday’s game not as a throwaway game, but as one he wanted to win. He said he truly believes his outfit is capable of beating anyone, but it’s better to go into playoff competition with confidence as opposed to the alternative.

“I think I’ll go just as hard as they can, and make our boys understand that they can play with anybody,” Gaul said just hours before gametime. “I don’t want to lay down, get beat badly, and then go and play them again.”

What To Read Next
Monday high school sports roundup:
Luverne is seeded No. 1 in the upcoming Section 3A girls high school hockey tournament and Worthington is seeded sixth.
The Worthington Trojans boys basketball team played exceptional defense against Canistota, surrendering a mere 11 points in the first half.
Outstanding outside shooting helped the Eagles beat Worthington in Worthington, 82-68