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Rochester A's fall in Firecracker Tournament opener despite Ben Johnson's strong day

Viroqua Post 138 exploded for 15 runs and cruised past the Rochester A's 15-3 in the first game of the Firecracker Tournament.

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Owen Merges, of the Rochester A's, throws a pitch during a Firecracker 92 American Legion baseball tournament game against Viroqua Friday, June 25, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

The Rochester A’s had three golden opportunities in the first three innings to really seize command of their opening game of the 14-team Firecracker Tournament, but they failed to capitalize each and every time.

Viroqua Post 138 made them pay and ran away from the A’s for a 15-3 win.

The A’s stranded the bases loaded in both the first and second innings. They also had the first two runners reach base in the third inning, but they came up empty. After A’s starter Owen Merges cruised through the first inning, Viroqua Post pounced in the second inning which started with a leadoff bomb to right field by Kamden Oliver and was punctuated by a three-run triple by Griffin Olson.

RELATED: Redhawks entering Firecracker Tournament with a bang

Merges battled through the tough Viroqua Post lineup for five innings. He allowed nine hits, seven runs (four earned) with two walks and four strikeouts.

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The A’s had baserunners in every single inning other than the fifth, but it wasn’t until the fourth that they got on the board. Singles by Ben Ziebarth and Ben Johnson put runners on the corner and Josh Fletcher’s RBI groundout cut the A’s deficit to five at 6-1. Fletcher came through with a two-run single in the sixth inning, but the damage was already done.

Every hitter in the Viroqua West lineup reached base at least once.

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Jeremiah Fletcher (10), of the Rochester A's) hits a single during a Firecracker 92 American Legion baseball tournament game against Viroqua Friday, June 25, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

"We have a lot of underclassmen on our team right now and we’re just trying to get them better,” A’s leadoff hitter Ben Johnson said. "It shows them how good some teams are and how we have to play up to their level.”

Fletcher finished with three RBIs but Johnson was the biggest bright spot for the A’s on Friday. He walked twice, singled and doubled. Johnson was still battling a broken finger after he slid into third base against Mayo in the Section tournament.

"I like our team because we have attitude and effort, and that’s what you can control and bring to a game,” Johnson said. “But to leave so many guys on base is just unfortunate.”

The A’s will look to bounce back tomorrow as they’ll finish off pool play with games against Albert Lea (11:30 a.m.) and Stewartville (4:30 p.m.) Both games will be at Century High School.

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“We have to win the first game and the second game will be against Stewartville,” Johnson said. "We played Stewartville last week and beat them so hopefully we can do it again. It gives you confidence when you beat a team before but you also have to go out there and do it again.”

Viroqua Post 138 15, Rochester A's 3

Viroqua Post#041#113#5—#15#12#2

Rochester#000#120#0—#3#9#4

Rochester: Ben Johnson 2-for-2, 2B; Josh Fletcher 2-for-4, 3 RBI; Cole Hein 2-for-4; Jerry Fletcher 2-for-3. Pitchers: Owen Merges 5 IP, 7 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K; Chris Morreale 1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB; Peter Lynch 1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

Viroqua Post 138: No stats.

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Rochester A's outfielder Chris Morreale (34) makes a catch for an out during a Firecracker 92 American Legion baseball tournament game against Viroqua Friday, June 25, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Rochester A's pitcher Peter Lynch prepares to throw during a Firecracker 92 American Legion baseball tournament game against Viroqua Friday, June 25, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Owen Merges, of the Rochester A's, prepares to throw a pitch during a Firecracker 92 American Legion baseball tournament game against Viroqua Friday, June 25, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Rochester A's third baseman Tristan Ohly (11) makes a throw to first for an out after fielding a ground ball during a Firecracker 92 American Legion baseball tournament game against Viroqua Friday, June 25, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Viroqua's Griffin Olson slides safely into second base before Rochester A's second baseman Jack Eustice (9) can tag during a Firecracker 92 American Legion baseball tournament game Friday, June 25, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Rochester A's shortstop Jeremiah Fletcher (10) fields a ground ball before making a throw to first for an out during a Firecracker 92 American Legion baseball tournament game against Viroqua Friday, June 25, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Owen Merges, of the Rochester A's, throws a pitch during a Firecracker 92 American Legion baseball tournament game against Viroqua Friday, June 25, 2021, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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