Austin qualifies for the state VFW tournament
By Scott A. Kolb
For the first time in 14 years, the Austin VFW Post 1216 baseball team has qualified for the state tournament.
Austin defeated Albert Lea 5-2 on Sunday at Marcusen Park to win the First District championship. The last trip to state came back in 1995, and the last time Post 1216 won the state title was in 1973.
Owatonna, Albert Lea, Austin, and the Rochester Spartans made up the Final Four of the district. They played throughout Saturday and Sunday in the double-elimination tournament.
The tourney started with a wild 6-5 win by Austin over Owatonna on Saturday. Post 1216 rallied with two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
An error opened the door to the winning rally. Logan Spitzack reached safely on an error to start the rally. Derek McMasters then drove in the tying run when he was hit by a pitch. Jay Ettinger followed with a single to plate the winning run.
Alan May went the distance on the mound to get the win for Austin in the opener. May also went the distance in the second game Saturday, a 4-2 win over Albert Lea.
"This was a very competitive tournament and there were a lot of closely contested games," Post 1216 coach Joe Serratore said. "Alan threw another doubleheader for the third week in a row. He did a great job on the mound, and also helped us with his bat."
After the initial loss to Austin, Albert Lea pulled out a 7-6 win in 10 innings against Owatonna in an elimination game.
Spitzack got the mound start in the second meeting with Albert Lea, but May still made his presence felt. After the visitors were retired in order in the top of the first, May got things started when he launched a shot over the left-field fence near the marker at 344 feet.
"He came with a few fastballs, then threw a couple of curves so I took some pitches to get a good look," May said. "Then, he threw one I liked and I drove it."
A run from Albert in the top of the second temporarily tied the game. The visitors got the leadoff man aboard in the top of the third, but a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play stopped that threat. Spitzack struck out the next guy to end the inning, and his offense then took control with a three-run rally.
Quinn Yocom led off the bottom of the third by drawing a walk. May then doubled to put runners at second and third with nobody out.
Steve Serratore followed with a ground ball back to the pitcher, who caught Yocom in no-man’s land between third base and home. The Albert Lea defense tagged Yocom in a rundown for the first out of the inning.
Despite the nifty defensive work, Albert Lea couldn’t stop the Austin offense. May went to third during the rundown and Serratore took second base. Tyler Kressin then came on to run for the catcher. The two runners didn’t stay on base for long.
Tyler Krekling next laced a shot down the line that ripped through the wickets of the third baseman’s glove. The double plated both May and Kressin as Post 1216 took the lead for good. Krekling scored to make a 4-1 lead on a single from Spitzack.
Off to state
Although they now had a comfortable lead, this would be no easy jaunt to the finish line for Post 1216. Albert Lea got a run back in the top of the fourth and had a few other chances to cut further into the deficit.
The visitors left a runner at third in the top of the fifth, then they stranded runners at second and third in the sixth inning. The missed scoring opportunities by Albert Lea allowed Austin to put the game on ice with another blast over the fence.
McMasters showed off his own flair for the dramatic with a long ball in the bottom of the sixth. The home run by McMasters cleared the left-field fence to provide the final margin of victory as the Austin boys headed off to state.
"This group of kids have been playing together for the last three years, and they worked hard to win the district title trophy," Serratore said in summation. "It’s nice to see them finish their time together in this way."
Austin Post 1216 baseball (26-6) advances to the VFW State Tournament which runs from Aug. 6-9 in St. Cloud.
FIRST DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIP
AUSTIN 5, ALBERT LEA 2
Albert Lea 010 100 0 — 2 7 0
Austin 103 001 x — 5 9 1
Albert Lea: Aaron Klatt 1-for-3, 2B; Cole Sorenson 2-for-3, 2B, 2 runs; Carter Kortan 1-for-3, RBI. LP: Cody Haaland 2 1/3 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 K. RP: Nick Dulas 3 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 3 K.
Austin Post 1216: Alan May 2-for-3, 2B, HR, 2 runs, RBI; Tyler Kressin 0-for-0, run; Tyler Krekling 3-for-3, 2B, 2 SB, run, 2 RBIs; Logan Spitzack 1-for-3, SB, RBI; Derek McMasters 2-for-3, SB, HR, run, RBI; Quinn Yocom 1-for-2, walk, SB. WP: Logan Spitzack 7 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 6 K.
AUSTIN 6, OWATONNA 5
Owatonna 000 005 0 — 5 5 1
Austin 111 001 2 — 6 9 0
Austin Post 1216: Alan May 2-for-3, 3B, 2 runs; Derek McMasters 1-for-4, HBP, run, RBI; Jay Ettinger 1-for-4, RBI. WP: Alan May 7 IP, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 HB, 4 K.
AUSTIN 4, ALBERT LEA 2
Albert Lea 000 101 0 — 2 5 1
Austin 100 210 x — 4 5 0
Austin Post 1216: Steve Serratore 3-for-3, 2B, 2 runs; Tyler Nelson 1-for-3, 3B, run, RBI. WP: Alan May 7 IP. 2 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 HB, 5 K.