ST. JAMES - In the wake of some recent offensive struggles, the New Ulm VFW Gold baseball team was looking to find a way to break out of its slump.
Gold's 16-hit performance in a 15-3 win against Wells on Thursday in the first round of the VFW 2nd District, Southwest Sub-District playoffs did just the trick.
New Ulm took control of the game by hitting the ball hard on offense and by capitalizing on some early defensive lapses by Wells, pulling out to a 14-0 lead after three innings. Gold sent 13 batters to the plate in an eight-run second inning and batted around again in a five-run third inning.
Staff photo by Daniel Kerwin
New Ulm VFW Gold’s Jackson Yackley connects on a two-run double during the second inning of Thursday’s Sub-District playoff game against Wells in St. James.
"We were able to basically take care of business early on," New Ulm head coach Dave Schoen said. "Obviously that second inning was big when they were kicking the ball around the field, and we were just taking advantage of it. That's what good teams do, we took advantage of their mistakes, and we were putting good swings on the ball, too. We've been fighting it a little bit lately at the plate, so it was nice to have this game out of the gate to get going in the playoffs."
Each of the players in New Ulm's starting line-up recorded at least one hit and scored at least one run in the game.
Almost lost in the offensive frenzy was a phenomenal effort from New Ulm starting pitcher Collin Helget.
Despite having to sit for long stretches as his team put together its big innings, Helget was sharp throughout his three innings of work, racking up seven strikeouts. He allowed only two base runners, limiting the damage by striking out the next three batters following a leadoff single in the second and by picking off Wells' Grant Becher at first base after his two-out single in the third.
"Once he finds the zone, he's filthy," Schoen said of Helget. "He throws hard, it moves, it's got pop, and it never really stays in the same spot. Then just for fun he's got a real sharp curve ball - I don't know how anybody can hit it, I sometimes wonder how umpires can call it."
Connor Forbrook (three hits, three runs, two walks, two strikeouts) pitched the fourth inning for Gold and Jarin Spence (one walk, one strikeout) finished off the game with a dominant fifth inning.
Spence (two RBI, two runs, double) and Brach Kraus (three RBI, three runs, two doubles) led New Ulm on offense with three hits apiece. Chase Meyer (two runs, two stolen bases), Jackson Yackley (three RBI, one run, double) and Tanner Kluis (two RBI, two runs, double, stolen base) each had two hits.
The main key to Gold's success at the plate was the aggressive approach adopted by each of the team's hitters.
"The big thing I stress is having good at bats and make sure we're aggressive with strikes," Schoen said. "Don't give the pitcher any free ones, wear him out - he's going to make a mistake, and when he does, pound on it."
New Ulm Gold will continue tournament play in today at 4:30 p.m. against the loser of Thursday night's game between St. James and Mapleton. Wyatt Peterson is slated to make the start for New Ulm.