Veterans again guide A's past Patriots
The Rochester A's are in a nice spot.
The American Legion baseball team has experience, with four guys who spent this past school year playing college baseball.
The A's took good advantage of that Thursday afternoon, riding two of them — third baseman Tyler Wright and pitcher John Meyer — to an 8-3 win over the Rochester Patriots in the winners-bracket semifinals of the First District tournament at John Adams Middle School.
The second-seeded A's will take their 18-13 record into Saturday's winners-bracket finals, where the'll meet Winona at 10 a.m. at John Adams. No. 4 seed Winona upset top-seed Albert Lea 7-5 in the other winners-bracket semifinal.
The championship is slated for 1 p.m. Sunday, with an if-necessary game to follow in the double-elimination state-qualifying event.
One of the A's key veterans, Wright, definitely had the right stuff Thursday. And it wasn't the first time recently that he's shown that.
Wright had a pair of hits against the Patriots, including a run-scoring single in a quick game-changing A's four-run first inning.
Later, in the fifth, Wright blasted a double to right-center field, bringing in another run.
A's coach Blake Kangas saw this production coming.
"Tyler had been on and off this season," Kangas said. "But our last few games he's just been reacting instead of thinking at the plate. He's also had a few really good practices in a row, and he's putting the time in to get better.
"The way he's playing is just a testament that hard works gets you where you want to go."
The A's want to go to the state tournament. That includes Wright. Even with that year of college under his belt, Legion baseball still matters plenty to him.
For Wright, this hasn't just been about having a winning summer, but a teaching one, too. Yes, the A's have four college players on their team. But they also have such youngsters as fleet left-fielder Darryl Martin, as well as a batch of other high school underclassmen.
Wright has made it a point to be there for those players.
"It's been good to get to know those guys," Wright said. "It's also been fun to be able to show them as much as I know."
The third-seeded Patriots — who are trying to get to the state tournament for the first time since 2009 — never were able to fully dig out of that 4-0 first-inning hole.
The A's tagged Patriots' starting pitcher Janek Walker for five hits in the frame. But that wasn't the only problem.
"We just didn't make enough plays behind (Walker)," Patriots coach Terry Heiderscheit said. "We just had to make some plays, and we didn't do it. When you fall behind like that, it makes it tough."
Walker lasted five innings, giving up 12 hits and seven runs.
As for Meyer, he was solid in working 5 2/3 innings. He allowed three runs (two earned) on nine hits, while walking just one and striking out four. Meyer also provided a pair of hits, including a triple.
The Patriots (14-16) play the winner between Owatonna and Kasson, at 4 p.m. Friday.
A's 8, Patriots 3
Patriots 000 021 000 — 3 11 2
A's 400 012 01x — 8 15 1
Patriots:Alex Brady 2-for-5; Ryan Lakin 2-for-5; Aaron Grad 2-for-5, RBI. Pitching: Sam Broman 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K; LP: Janek Walker 5 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.
A's:Josh Denisen 3-for-4, 2B, 2 R; Tyler Wright 2-for-3, 2B, 2 RBIs; Jordan Jasik 2-for-4, 2 R; Brad Pfeffer 2-for-4; RBI; Matt Sturchio 1-for-4, 3 RBI; Darryl Martin 2-for-5, RBI. Pitching: Cody Jansen 3 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K; WP: John Meyer 5 2/3 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.
Winona 7, Albert Lea 5
Winona pulled off a surprise and wasted little time in setting the tone.
No. 4 seed Winona scored six runs in the second inning to put No. 1 seed Albert Lea in a monstrous early hole. Two of those runs were unearned.
"That was pretty much the game right there," said Albert Lea coach Jay Enderson, whose team is the First District defending champion.
Albert Lea starter Cole Sorenson lasted six innings.