Legion baseball: Austin the team to beat in First District tourney

Austin hasn't been to the state American Legion baseball tournament in more than 25 years. That drought may be on the cusp of ending.

06-30 erik thorvilson 01 sj.jpg
Rochester A's pitcher Erik Thorvilson will be trying to get his team to the state American Legion baseball tournament or the first time since 2005.

Austin hasn't been to the state American Legion baseball tournament in more than 25 years.

That drought may be on the cusp of ending.

Austin Post 91 (24-5 overall) takes the No. 1 seed into the First District tournament, which begins today at the highest seeds, then moves to Rochester Mayo's Dale Massey Field from Thursday to Sunday.

Austin also takes with it momentum. That began building last year, when Austin finished runner-up to the Rochester Redhawks in the First District tournament.

Austin brought back all but two of those players this summer and rode them to a 12-2 First District record. That success was accomplished especially behind a horde of stellar arms.


Austin's team ERA is minuscule and dazzling: 2.11. Four of its top six pitchers check in at 1.58 or better. That includes top-three guys Nik Gasner (5-0, 1.58 ERA), Jake Reinartz (3-0, 1.28 ERA) and Isaac Schumacher (3-0, 1.17 ERA).

"Our pitching has been huge for us all season," said Austin co-head coach Andy Swank. "We have five or six guys who've had really strong seasons. When your pitching is like that, and you have good defense behind them, you can accomplish good things."

While Austin is comfortable that it's the team to beat, it also knows that getting to state is anything but a done deal.

"We lost to the Rochester A's this season, and they are the No. 4 seed in this tournament," Swank said. "Any of these teams can get hot — it's baseball."

Rounding out the top seeds in the nine-team double-elimination tournament are Albert Lea (9-5 First District), the Rochester Patriots (8-6), the A's (8-6) and Winona (8-6). The defending district champion Rochester Redhawks (3-11) are seeded seventh.

Among Rochester teams, the Patriots and A's are strong contenders. Both are on the young side, however, and may be one season away from true dominance.

"We have a chance," said Patriots coach Terry Heiderscheit, whose team is 17-12 overall. "We've had hot streaks and not-so-hot streaks, and we have a lot of kids who can pitch. When we've lost, we haven't played bad, but we've just not quite made the plays to win."

The same goes for the A's, who after 16 consecutive years of reaching the state tournament, haven't advanced since 2005. They lost in the First District title game in 2009.


The A's biggest claim to fame this year is having beaten Austin not just once, but twice.

"If we play good defense, we'll be in every game," A's coach Jordan Kangas said. "We have the pitching."

What To Read Next
Get Local