Legion Baseball: RF claims state title
The River Falls Post 121 baseball team won its third state title in eight years with a 3-2 victory over New London in the title game of the Wisconsin American Legion Class AA State Baseball Tournament Tuesday, July 31, in Baraboo.
Jake Lindsay went the distance on the mound and Braden Mork drove in two runs, including the go-ahead run in the bottom of the third inning, before River Falls turned double plays to end both the sixth and seventh innings to win their third one-run game of the tournament.
"That's the way it should be," River Falls coach Ryan Bishop said. "When you get to this level you can't take any teams lightly. And tip your hat to New London. They lose the first game and they come all the way back, playing with a ton of pride and energy. They could have very easily won that game too. It was fun to be a part of, and to be a close game against a team with so much heart makes it that much more special."
The win avenged River Falls' only loss of the tournament, a 2-1 decision to New London, the day before.
New London took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first but River Falls answered in the bottom of the inning when Adam Feyereisen stroked a two-out single, moved to second on a balk, and scored on a double by Joe Stoffel. Mork followed with a single over the third baseman's head to score Stoffel and give River Falls a 2-1 lead.
New London tied it up with a run in the top of the second inning but River Falls took the lead for good in the third when Lindsay drew a leadoff walk and Feyereisen singled to put runners at first and second with no outs. A sac bunt by Stoffel moved both runners up before Mork hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Lindsay. River Falls would go on to load the bases but couldn't push another run across.
Lindsay and the River Falls defense did the rest. Catcher Joey Davis threw out a New London baserunner on an attempted steal of second base to end the top of the fourth, and Lindsay picked off a runner at first that turned out to be huge when the next batter doubled and was left stranded.
Lindsay started a 1-6-3 double play to end the top of sixth, and after New London put the tying run at first with one out in the seventh, first baseman Nick Speckman fielded a ground ball, stepped on first, and threw to Feyereisen for the tag at second to end the game.
Lindsay, who was named the tournament MVP, allowed eight hits with six strikeouts and two walks to earn his second pitching victory of the tourney.
"You just have to stay up and keep making pitches," he said . "I felt we were in the driver's seat the whole game. Win every inning and just play your best. And everyone's making plays and everyone was backing me up. It was great."
Davis, who was awarded the tournament's Sportsmanship Award, remembers watching the Post 121 team win its last state title in 2015 following his freshman season.
"Being a freshman who was one year away from that state champion team, watching the older guys do it, I always thought, man, that's what I want to do," he said. "Then after that last pitch I got to give Jake a big hug, I wouldn't want it any other way. Playing with my brothers and it finally works up to this. It couldn't be better. It's awesome."
Both Davis and Lindsay will move on from Legion ball next year with Davis attending UW-La Crosse and Lindsay headed for the University of St. Thomas. Bishop said he couldn't be happier for both of them.
"Those two are winners in everything they do in life," he said. "And to finish out their baseball careers at River Falls High School and River Falls Legion, it's as fitting as you can get for them to finish out on top with the sportsmanship trophy and the MVP trophy; those two guys, there's nobody more deserving who I've ever coached for those two awards."
Bishop also thanked the huge number of fans who made the trip to Baraboo to support the team at the five-day tournament.
"There's a reason that we brought them all out on the field to hoist the trophy with us one last time," he said. "We couldn't have done it without their support. It's been amazing."