NEW ULM - New Ulm Legion Gold assistant coach Bryce Boelter, who took over for vacationing head coach Bob Weier when New Ulm played in the Gopher Classic this past weekend, said that he was "extremely pleased" with the team's performance in the tournament.
Gold went 5-1 in the Gopher Classic, with wins against Sartell (14-7), Yankton, S.D., (12-4), St. Louis Park (14-6) and Grand Forks, N.D., (5-1) over the first three days of tournament action.
Gold then defeated Papillion, Neb., 2-1 on Monday before losing to Lakeville North 7-5.
"There were good Legion teams from all over the Upper Midwest," Boelter said. "There was good, strong competition."
Boelter said that the success that Gold had was entirely "team driven."
"It was a total team effort," he said. "That is the only way that you are going to win in a tournament like this. All year we have talked and we have what we like to call the 'super seniors' (Zach Hoffmann, Colin Wendinger and Jason Shaul ) - the kids who have had one year of college baseball. They come back with a lot more experience and have been our team leaders statistically for the first part of the season."
"But we have stressed that we need to take the pressure off of them a little bit," added Boelter. "Yes, they have the experience, and that is what is carrying us through. But I was so pleased that as the tournament progressed that this is now a total team venture. And honestly, there was not a single player who did not contribute a lot to these victories this past weekend."
Boelter said that the team has leaders on offense and on defense, but the aspect of the game that has been stressed the most on the team are the leaders mentally.
"You have to have people who know the mentality of this game, and that is the one thing that Bob and I really try and teach," he said. "There is so much physical in this game, but there is also so much mental in the game that helps you achieve goals."
Boelter said that the game at Worthington Tuesday night was cancelled.
"The kids were worn out from the tournament," he said. "We did not have any pitching left and I do not think that we would have gained anything from playing that game, and I do not feel that Worthington would either. These tournaments take a lot out of the kids, and when we have played so many games as we have with so few players as we have, it is tough to keep asking more out of them on a Monday or a Tuesday after big tournament against a lot of strong teams."
New Ulm played six games in four days with 12 players.
New Ulm Gold did get a shot in the arm - literally - when the team double rostered VFW Gold pitchers Tanner Kluis and Chase Meyer on the Legion Gold roster for the Gopher Classic.
That added two young and talented pitchers to the roster.
"They will also be double rostered for the state (Legion) tournament if that is possible," Boelter said. "They both came in in the Gopher Classic and they did an excellent job of pitching. They threw strikes, they got batters out, they relied on our defense. Our defense came through for them and we gave them good offensive support. I think that they both felt comfortable with the team."
Kluis picked up the win in the 14-6 win over St. Louis Park while Meyer got the victory in the 5-1 win over Grand Forks.
New Ulm Gold, now 18-7 and the No. 1 seed in the Second District American Legion Baseball Tournament that starts next weekend in Fairmont, plays tonight at 8 p.m. at Mueller Park against Hutchinson. New Ulm Blue plays at 5:30 p.m. at Mueller Park against Litchfield.
"We are looking to scheduling a game on Tuesday," added Boelter.
Will this solid play carry over to the future?
Boelter said that predicting how a team will play in the district and possibly beyond is not what he likes to do.
"But this team has come a long way with their baseball play," he said. "I do not know if I could say anything about the future except that we have to try and win every inning of every game. If we do that, then things will take care of themselves."
Boelter said that he hopes that the long-term effect of the strong showing over the last weekend will carry over.
"I hope that they all say, 'Wow, I really learned a whole lot about the game of baseball and what we can do,'" Boelter said.
Wyczawski bus for HOF induction
If you are interested in riding on a charter bus for the Induction Ceremony into the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame for New Ulm's Red Wyczawski on Saturday, Sept. 15 in St. Cloud you can call 507-276-1774.