GRAND RAPIDS — Bob Streetar Field in Grand Rapids and Portage Park in Cohasset will be the sites hosting the District 8 Sub-State American Legion Baseball Tournament which kicks off Wednesday morning at both sites.
Grand Rapids came out on top in the tightest seeding meeting ever recorded in the district despite having just a 2-2 league record this season. Grand Rapids manager Bill Kinnunen said five teams received votes for the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
“The coaches voted, and everybody did not play everybody,” Kinnunen said about the seeding meeting. “It was the tightest voting ever and we came out with the No. 1 seed. Five different teams received first-place votes, that’s how close it was.
“I had us at a five or a six seed based on our record but the other teams must have realized during the week that we are getting deeper and deeper in our pitching staff. On the weekends we throw the top-tier guys right off the bat in the tournaments we play in and I guess the coaches picked up on that because we were 2-2 in league play. But I think our reputation precedes us and they remember we finished second in the state high school tournament and we added a couple of college guys too.”
Besides Grand Rapids receiving the No. 1 seed, it is followed by West Duluth, No. 2, Hermantown, No. 3, Brainerd, No. 4, Lakeview (Duluth East ), No. 5, Pine City/Hinckley, No. 6, Hibbing, No. 7, and Cloquet, No.8.
Grand Rapids will open the tournament at Bob Streetar Field on Wednesday at 11 a.m. against Cloquet. Brainerd will face Lakeview at 1:30 p.m.
At Portage Park on Wednesday, West Duluth meets Hibbing at 11 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m. Hermantown will take on Pine City/Hinckley.
Later on Wednesday, the losers of the games will play at 4 p.m. with the winners playing at 6:30 p.m. at the same sites they played at earlier.
When asked what advantages Grand Rapids has gained by receiving the No. 1 seed, Kinnunen said, “The big thing is you get to play a lower seed right off the bat and you get to play the early games at 11 a.m. so you have until 6:30 p.m. to play the next game. That helps you get a little bit of rest in there. But our guys will be working on the field inbetween games so it is not really a rest.”
Kinnunen said as always the key to success for Grand Rapids is receiving good pitching and solid defense behind that pitching.
“Pitching and defense wins you championships and we really stress that,” Kinnunen said. “We start day one in the gym with that and it got us to the championship game of the state high school tournament and hopefully it can do it here. If we pitch well and play defense we will be in the game at the end and hopefully we can scratch out a run or two to win it.
“That’s always the key when you are playing baseball. You have to pitch and you have to play defense.”
Kinnunen said a number of teams have the talent to win the double-elimination tournament and advance to state.
“I think any of the five that got a first-place vote has a shot at winning it,” the coach explained. He said No. 5 seed Lakeview has a left-handed pitcher who has a full ride to St. Thomas, a Division I program, while No. 4 seed Brainerd is a baseball town and is always tough. No. 2 seed West Duluth beat Grand Rapids last week while No. 3 seed Hermantown beat the local team at Bob Streetar Field during the season.
Grand Rapids played in the Princeton Tournament during the weekend and reached the championship game before losing. Following are results of the tournament:
Apple Valley 2
In the first game of the tournament, Grand Rapids defeated Apple Valley 6-2.
The game was tied at 2-2 entering the sixth inning but Grand Rapids scored four runs to put the game away. The eventual game-winning run came when Ren Morque walked with the bases loaded to bring in Andrew Sundberg.
Kyle Henke picked up the win on the mound as he hurled the first four innings and allowed one hit while walking two and striking out four. Gideon Beck pitched the last three innings and allowed two unearned runs while yielding two hits and striking out three.
Kodi Miller had two hits with a home run – a two-run shot in the third inning – and finished with four RBIs. Henke had two hits with a double
AV 000 002 0— 2 3 0
GR 002 004 x — 6 6 4
Grand Rapids: Kyle Henke (W), Gideon Beck (5th) (S); 2B-Kyle Henke; HR-Kodi Miller.
Grand Rapids earned a berth in the championship game with a 6-5 win over a good Hutchinson team in the semifinals.
Ren Morque was the winning pitcher in relief for Grand Rapids, pitching three innings and allowing one run on four hits with two strikeouts. Myles Gunderson started the game and pitched the first four innings and yielded four runs on nine hits. He walked two, hit one batter and struck out four.
Kyle Henke was 4-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and a RBI while David Wohlers hit a two-run double. Andy Linder added a two-run single for Grand Rapids.
H 103 001 0— 5 13 1
GR 000 231 x — 6 11 0
Grand Rapids: Myles Gunderson, Ren Morque (5th) (W); 2B-Kyle Henke, David Wohlers.
Grand Rapids lost to Rogers in the championship game by a 12-2 score in six innings.
Kodi Miller took the loss in relief for Grand Rapids, pitching 1 2/3 innings and allowing three hits and two runs. He hit a batter and struck out three. Andrew Sundberg, Andy Linder, Ben Keske and Walker Ritter also saw mound action for Grand Rapids.
Andy Linder had two hits for Grand Rapids while Ren Morque had a double and scored a run. Miller added a RBI single.
“We didn’t pitch well in the later parts of the game and we need to get better,” Kinnunen said. “We need to get better if we get beat in this double-elimination tournament coming up. We had six pitchers throw very well. We limited the pitches because we want everyone fresh on Wednesday. We feel we would have given them a lot better game in the championship game if we had stuck with our rotation as normal.
“But we couldn’t do that because we were getting ready for the big tournament; we weren’t really worried about the Princeton Tournament championship.”
R 100 128 0— 12 5 2
GR 110 000 0 — 2 7 1
Grand Rapids: Andrew Sundberg, Kodi Miller (L), Ben Keske, Andy Linder, Walker Ritter; 2B-Ren Morque.