ST. JAMES - If hitting is indeed contagious, the New Ulm VFW Gold baseball team is hoping that nobody finds a cure anytime soon.
After busting out for 16 hits on Thursday in the first round of the VFW 2nd District, Southwest Sub-Division tournament, Gold produced 21 hits in a 23-1 shellacking of Mapleton in its second-round game on Friday.
New Ulm batted around in each of its first four innings at the plate before forfeiting its turn to bat in the top of the fifth inning in the five-inning victory. Every player that had a plate appearance for Gold ended up driving in at least one run.
Staff photo by Daniel Kerwin
New Ulm VFW Gold’s Seanan Kelly makes a catch in right field to end the third inning of Friday’s Sub-District playoff baseball game against Mapleton in St. James.
"I really have no explanation for it other than the kids are looking for their pitch and they're driving it," New Ulm head coach Dave Schoen said. "Everybody got a pitch that they could handle and put a good swing on it. We pretty much went all four [innings at the plate] with maybe one bad at bat."
Gold wasted no time exerting its dominance in the contest, smacking 10 hits and scoring 10 runs in the top of the first inning alone. The team added five runs in the second and another five runs in the third before rounding out its scoring with three runs in the fourth.
"It seemed like anything we hit hard, it was finding the gap, and anything that we didn't hit hard it was finding a hole... It was one of those where we were due to have an explosion, and I'm really glad that it came right about now," Schoen said.
New Ulm was just as dominant on the defensive end, with starting pitcher Wyatt Peterson and reliever Tyler Dittrich throwing a joint no-hitter.
Peterson worked the first three innings, allowing Mapleton's lone run to score on a fielder's choice after he walked the bases loaded in the third. He issued four total walks in the game.
"He came in and threw the ball well," Schoen said of Peterson. "He had a nice bounce-back, he struggled a little bit with control last week and I think we fixed a few things mechanically."
Dittrich took the mound in the bottom of the fourth, retiring the side in order. Dittrich didn't even have time to leave the mound after the inning before it was announced that New Ulm had forfeited its chance to bat in the top of the fifth, so Mapleton would continue to bat on. Dittrich proceeded to strike out the next three batters he faced to end the game, giving him a total of four strikeouts in two perfect innings of work.
Leading the way for New Ulm's offensive onslaught was Brach Kraus, who finished 4-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI and five runs scored. Also racking up multiple hits in the contest for New Ulm were Chase Meyer (3-for-5, four RBI, two runs, double), Jackson Yackley (2-for-2, two RBI, run, double), Tanner Kluis (3-for-4, four RBI, two runs), Grant Kannegiesser (2-for-4, RBI, three runs, double) Peterson (2-for-2, RBI, double) and Dittrich (2-for-2, two RBI, four runs scored, double, two walks).
Collin Helget had a pair of RBI groundouts, Alex Stark was 1-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored, Seanan Kelly was 1-for-1 with an RBI, a run scored and a walk, Jarin Spence drove in a run when he reached on an error and Conner Forbrook was 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
New Ulm Gold will play at 12:30 p.m. today against the winner of Friday's game between St. James and Fairmont. Although Gold was already guaranteed a spot at next weekend's District tournament, Schoen mentioned that his team is eager to prove that it belonged there anyway by taking home the Sub-District trophy this weekend.
"We were guaranteed to advance anyway, but at least this way we can guarantee the fact that we actually earned it, it's not just something that was given to us," Schoen said. "At the same time, it's like we said earlier in the year, we want three trophies this year for sure, four trophies, and this is one of them. We want to win this tournament. The boys have had a goal all year and we're ready to get after it, they're coming swinging the bats ready to go."