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Legion shines in busy week

River Falls' right fielder Braden Mork runs down a ball for an out in Post 121's 8-0 victory in the Falls Classic Legion Baseball Tournament Saturday, June 23, at First National Bank of River Falls Field. Bob Burrows / Rivertown Multimedia 1 / 2
James Westhoff gets under the tag of the Hamline pitcher to score River Falls' first run of the game in Post 121's 8-0 victory in the Falls Classic Legion Baseball Tournament Saturday, June 23, at First National Bank of River Falls Field. Bob Burrows / Rivertown Multimedia 2 / 2

The River Falls Post 121 baseball team received contributions up and down the lineup while posting a 5-1 record in six American Legion games last week.

Three of the victories came at the team's annual Falls Classic over the weekend, starting with a thrilling 4-3, extra-inning win over Hudson Friday night followed by an 8-0 shutout of Hamline Saturday and an 11-2 win over Ellsworth/Baldwin Sunday.

Throw in a 4-3 victory over Red Wing to start the week last Monday, a 10-0 win over Faribault Wednesday, and a 2-0 loss to Mahtomedi Thursday and River Falls will take an 8-2 overall record into a Junior/Senior doubleheader with New Richmond Wednesday, June 27, at home. They then head to a weekend tournament in Mankato where they'll play the host team in the first of four games Friday, June 29.

"Mankato has traditionally been a very high quality tournament," River Falls coach Ryan Bishop said. "I like the direction our team is heading right now and look forward to seeing how we rise up to the challenge in Mankato."

Bishop said the highlight last week was Friday's 4-3 extra-inning victory over Hudson.

"What a fun game to be a part of," he said. "Beautiful night under the lights, good crowd, and an extra inning thriller with none other than Hudson. Win or lose, it made for a great atmosphere."

Nick Speckman singled in Jake Miller for his second RBI of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the score, 3-3, and after three scoreless innings the international tiebreaker rule came into play, putting a runner at first base to start the inning.

After holding Hudson scoreless in the top of the ninth, Jake Bergmanis pushed a bunt toward third that the third baseman threw high to first, allowing the winning run to score in walk-off fashion.

"We've been telling the guys that sooner or later we're going to win or lose a game on a bunt," Bishop noted. "It was great to see Bergy execute something he has worked so hard on in that type of situation."

Andrew Bevens took over for starting pitcher Dylan Penny after Penny was drilled in the hand by a line drive with one out in the second and proceeded to strike out ten Hudson batters in 4 2/3-innings before Jaden Schwantz was credited with the win.

"Of course it's easy to get amped up for a game like this, but I thought Andrew really did a great job coming into that situation with no real warm-up time," Bishop said about Bevens. "And Jaden coming on for the win. Talk about a tough situation for any pitcher, let alone a freshmen making his first high pressure appearance on the mound. Jaden proved that he's not just a hitter and outfielder, but he can get it done on the mound as well. That's a special kind of talent for any 15 year old kid."

Jake Lindsay went 4-for-4 and drove in two runs at the plate and allowed just two hits in five innings of shutout ball in Post 121's 8-0, five-inning win over Hamline Saturday night. An 8-run mercy rule was in play for the tournament.

"Jake picked up from where he left off last week as he continues to make up for lost time being sick most of the spring season," Bishop said "Both offensively and on the hill, he's really hitting his stride right now."

River Falls posted its second mercy rule win Sunday when Braden Mork hit a three-run bomb in the bottom of the fifth to give Post 121 an 11-2 victory over Ellsworth/Baldwin.

"Braden has really started to find his timing at the plate," Bishop said. "It was very rewarding to see him crush that ball."

Charlie Griffin earned his second pitching victory of the week, striking out six in five innings of work. Griffin also got the win over Red Wing to start the week.

"Charley played a big role this week as he got us started on the right foot at Red Wing, and then did the same thing to end it with a tourney title this weekend," Bishop said. "Charley has put in the time and work to be successful. He has definitely earned his role as an important piece of our pitching rotation."

Mork's RBI double in the top of the fourth proved to be the difference at Red Wing Monday while Bevens came on with two runners on in the seventh to earn the save.

"This was a very good team win for us," Bishop said. "A lot of guys, both starters and reserves, came up big when their name was called. It's always extra special to get a big win when so many different players make clutch contributions."

Joe Stoffel allowed just one hit in five innings against Faribault while Mork went 2-for-2 with three RBI and Adam Feyereisen had to hits and scored three times in Wednesday's mercy-rule victory.

River Falls' only blemish of the week was a 2-0 loss Thursday to a Mahtomedi team in a game that was played as a Junior/Senior combo.

'We rested our main players and used this game as an opportunity to play our younger guys and see how they matched up against a quality varsity team," Bishop said. "Mahtomedi was also missing a couple of their main guys, so it was a good matchup."

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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