Pine Island gains experience, places second at Firecracker Tournament
The Pine Island American Legion baseball team suffered a 7-0 loss to Wayzata on Sunday, but finished second at the Rochester Firecracker Tournament.
ROCHESTER — The youthful Pine Island American Legion baseball team got a chance for some valuable experience at the Rochester Firecracker Tournament over the weekend, and it did a little winning in the process
Pine Island had a lot of very young players for the tourney. That included seven players who will just be freshmen this fall. There were also three seniors and one post-graduate on hand. But that didn’t stop Pine Island from going 2-1 in pool play and reaching the championship game on Sunday against Wayzata at John Adams Middle School.
“I kind of took pride in that, having the seven young guys,” Pine Island assistant coach Carter Drazan said. “Just to let them see those older pitchers and to see the ball coming in that fast is just huge at that young of age. It kind of changes your eye level a little bit.”
Pine Island played Wayzata even until the sixth inning. The game was scoreless before Wayzata scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth and posted a 7-0 victory.
Drazan was also filling in as Pine Island head coach Dan Drazan, Carter’s father, was out of town for the weekend.
“(Saturday) was amazing but today we just couldn’t get the ball to roll our way and that’s the way baseball is,” Drazan said.
“Some days you’re going to hit everything hard and it’s going to drop for you and other days you’re going to hit everything hard and it’s going to go to somebody,” he added.
Pine Island pitcher Kaleb Johnson took a two-hitter into the bottom of the sixth before he tired. He was replaced after the first five Wayzata hitters reached on a hit batsman, two walks and two doubles.
“I kind of lost my footing and planting and got a little wild,” Johnson said.
Wayzata had five of its seven hits in the sixth inning. Topher Winston had the biggest hit, a two-run double.
The seven runs were plenty for right-hander Noah Karschnik, who tossed a three-hit shutout for the win. Karschnik pitched in a handful of varsity games for Wayzata during the 2021 high school season.
Wayzata finished the tournament without a loss, going 4-0.
“It’s nice knowing we can hang with 4A schools,” Johnson said. “We’re 2A so people think they have an advantage against us. But we can hang with anyone in the area.”
Johnson is a 2021 graduate who is still eligible to play Legion ball this year. He pitched a lot for the Pine Island varsity as a senior last spring.
“I just wanted to come back and have some fun, play with my old teammates,” he said.
But for this weekend anyway, he played mostly with players who will be the future of the Pine Island baseball program. Two of those players, Landon Lowrie and Alex Knox, collected two of the team’s three hits.
“We’ve got a bunch of eighth-graders — going into their freshman year — playing so their class is a really good class I would look out for,” Johnson said.
Drazan is excited for the future of the program.
“We have a ton of youth coming up,” he said. “... They’re going to be great additions, and they are great additions.”
Wayzata 7, Pine Island 0
Pine Island: Johnny Bauer 1-for-3; Landon Lowrie 1-for-3, 1 2B; Alex Knox 1-for-3. Pitchers: Kaleb Johnson (LP) 5 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K; Kayson Stanton 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
Wayzata: Zach Pettit 1-for-4, 1 RBI, 1 R; Noah Regan 1-for-2, 1 RBI, 1 R; Gaard Swenson 1-for-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 R; Topher Winston 2-for-3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R; Fysher Rowan 2-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 R. Pitcher: Noah Karschnik (WP) 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.