By Johnny Stocker When you ask folks around Minnesota to picture an image of town team baseball, a lot of people are going to think of driving on a two-lane county road twisting through farm country …
By Johnny Stocker
When you ask folks around Minnesota to picture an image of town team baseball, a lot of people are going to think of driving on a two-lane county road twisting through farm country and pulling into a small town consisting of a church, a grain elevator, a post office, a restaurant, a gas station, and a ballpark. The Hastings Hawks played a tournament in just such a locale this weekend, as they traveled to Elrosa, population 211 to participate in the Elrosa Elite Eight tournament this past weekend.
The Hawks opened things up in the late game on Friday night against the tourney’s defending champ, the New London-Spicer Twins. Manager Shawn Matson opted to go with the rookie Zach Nelson for the tournament opener, and that decision proved to be a sound one, as Nellie went 6 strong innings, giving up only a single 6th inning run well after the outcome had been settled. Nelson scattered 7 hits and struck out 6, picking up his second Hawks win in as many starts, earning the coveted player of the game mug in the process. Nelson was backed by a strong offensive outburst from the Hawks lineup who pounded out 13 hits on the evening. After 2 scoreless innings, DH Patrick Rough drew a walk to open the third, which was followed up by singles from Wolters, Greeder, and Jeske and a sac fly from Warner to stake the Hawks to a 3-0 lead. With one out in the 4th, reserve player Rough made some noise again, as he hit a high fly to straightaway center that carried over the fence and into the trees for his first career Hawks home run. Ben Bundschu followed that up with a solo blast to left field the following inning, and Evan Krhin added a two-run moonshot over the scoreboard in left center in the 7th to close out the Hawks scoring. Hastings cruised into the winner’s side of the bracket with a 9-1 victory in the opener.
The following evening, the Hawks took on the Tri City Sharks, a class A metro area team that also made the jaunt west to Stearns County to join us for the weekend. Jordan Jeske took the hill for the Hawks, looking to continue his excellent season. Ski got into a jam early in the game, allowing the first 3 batters of the game to reach on a single, a walk, and a hit batter. A sac fly and one more single later, and the Hawks were in an early 2-0 hole. Hastings took advantage of 4 errors by the Sharks infield in the next two innings to push across single runs in the 2nd and 3rd, with Warner and Greeder singling and coming around to score but left 5 men on base in the two frames, letting the chance for a crooked number slip away from them. Jeske cruised through the next 2 innings, but ran into trouble again in the 4th, as the Sharks used three singles, a hit batter and an infield error to cobble together a three-run inning. Jeske helped his own cause at the plate in the next two innings, singling twice and coming around to score on a Noah Paulseth single and a Ben Bundschu double. But the Hawks once again left the bases loaded in the 5th and one more man on in the 6th, unable to get the clutch hit they needed to unlock a big inning. So, despite playing well and playing a cleaner game than the Sharks for the most part, the Hawks fell into the 3rd place game with a 5-4 loss.
After a fun evening Saturday night where players and fans from all teams spent some time having a few adult beverages and reveling in the fraternity that is Minnesota town team ball, the Hawks were scheduled to take on the host Elrosa Saints in the third-place game on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans for us, as a rainy morning soaked the field and forced the cancellation of the game, forcing the Hawks to settle for a third-place tie in the tournament with host Elrosa. All in all, the Hawks first out of town in-season tournament in 3 years was a resounding success, and hopefully the boys will be doing it over again next summer and heading back down I-94 with a trophy in tow.
Ben Bundschu smashes the second homerun of the New London / Spicer game over the left field fence enroute to a 9-1 Hawks win for the first game in the Elrosa Tournament. Photo by Troy Nordine.