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Post 91 starts District playoffs

There was a kind of revival late in the summer season for the Austin American Legion baseball team and that recent momentum gives them a legitimate chance in the wide open First District playoffs.

The double-elimination tournament opens tonight with four games at the high seeds. The rest of the tournament will then be played Thursday-Sunday at Hayek Field in Albert Lea.

Austin, seeded seventh, avoided the play-in game this year and will travel to second-seeded Owatonna for tonight's opener. Heat is already a factor as the start time of the game has been pushed back from the original 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

If the boys from Austin Post 91 win their opener, then they play in the winner's bracket on Thursday. A loss in the first round means an elimination game on Friday.

Reasons for hope

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Although the Post 91 team finished the regular season with a losing record, just like the high school team did in the spring, there are reasons for hope of a run through the tournament. The first factor is Post 91 split a doubleheader earlier this summer with Owatonna Post 77.

Luke Mallory was the winning pitcher against Owatonna in that doubleheader split, so he's proven the No. 2 seed can be beaten. If the offense can piece together more than just a few runs, then there's the possibility of an upset this evening at Dartts Park.

Fielding will likely be the biggest key to any hope for success by the Austin nine. When they put together a two-game winning streak in the final week of the regular season, the Post 91 fielders kept the errors to a minimum.

Despite the lack of success in recent years in games played at Charlie Fuller Field, the Austin boys have shown they can play with the higher seeded teams in the tournament. A win in the first game can make all the difference in a possible run to state.

Tough opponents

While they've displayed the ability to beat some of the better teams, the Austin boys have also frustrated their fans with an appalling lack of consistency. The visitors won't get away with that in tonight's game. Errors lead to big innings and can quickly turn a close game into a rout.

Post 77 has a deep pitching rotation of Dalton Homeier, Sam Zappa, Cody Olson and Jordan Howe. The depth on the mound corps could be a factor as the games stretch to nine innings compared to the usual seven played during the regular season.

Owatonna also has a talented line-up of hitters, so it's even more important not to give them extra outs. The pitchers have kept Post 91 in a lot of games so far this season, but the defense has certainly let them down at times.

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Fundamentals were stressed to the players by coaches Bob Stratton, Mike Raso, and Kevin Higbe throughout the season. There were encouraging signs in a couple of the wins last week, so spirits are high heading into the post-season.

Fun in the Sun

Favorite memories of playing golf at the Cedar River Country Club just outside of Adams take me back to rounds on the course with my late grandfather, Louis Kolb, when I was a kid. It's a great place to spend a summer afternoon.

In more recent times, trips to the course have included riding around in my buddy Mark Helfrich's golf cart. He usually beats me on every hole, but I have fun waiting for the beverage cart and watching my tee shots go into the river.

They also play more serious rounds of golf and there was a Couples Four-Person Best Shot Tournament this past Sunday. Low Gross champions, with a score of 67, were Lisa and Mitch Lunning, Brady Lorenzen, and Samantha Inglebret.

Blind Bogey champions had a tie for first with Dean Tipton, Nancy Thalberg, Karen and Don Stilwell and the team of Kerry and Rick Stroup, Mary and Bruce Bergene. Blind Bogey runner-up were Jim Kiefer, Patti Hamilton, Nancy and Mike Smith.

The summer season for sporting event is at its peak, so enjoy the activities while they last.

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