NEW ULM - New Ulm Legion Gold's two wins over Sleepy Eye Sunday to capture their 30th Second District American Legion Baseball title was a long road back following a 1-0 loss to Sleepy Eye on Thursday.
That put Gold into the loser's bracket, where they came back with wins over New Ulm Blue, Worthington, Fairmont and then two wins over Post 7 for a state tournament berth.
New Ulm Gold (24-8) will now face a 34-9 Tri-City Red team at 10 a.m. Friday at Chanhassen High School.
For Gold coach Bob Weier, coming through the loser's bracket was a case of determination on all 12 players on his team.
"They were determined that they needed to return to the state tournament," Weier said. "They knew what it was going to take (winning five straight games) to get there and they buckled down. We talked about it after the game Thursday that it was not impossible but that it was going to be a grind."
Weier said that he felt that there were a couple of things that were in New Ulm's favor in the comeback in the games on Saturday and Sunday.
"One was that the weather was not so hot," he said. "We had some mild weather which helped. And our offense came alive - we scored a lot of runs which took some pressure off of our pitchers and shortened up the games. That saved some innings for our pitchers and it also saved some innings for the rest of our players to and their bodies."
Weier added that his team played very good defense.
"If you make the routine play, make the outs that are presented to you, that shortens up the innings and keeps the pitch count down," Weier said. "I don't know how many errors that we had but I don't think that we had more than one error a game."
Weier said that there was a lot of leadership shown by the college-age players on the team in Colin Wendinger, Kevin Larson, Zach Hoffmann and Jason Shaul.
"It was a pleasure being around them," Weier said. "The things that they have learned from being away one year at their respective colleges helped. They showed so much maturity on and off the field."
New Ulm Gold will also be bolstered with the addition of four players from the 26-7 New Ulm VFW Gold in pitchers Tanner Kluis and Chase Meyer, catcher Grant Kannegiesser and shortstop Judd Davis.
"We are going to do our best in the state, put our best effort forward and see what happens," Weier said.
TOURNAMENT IN NEW ULM NEXT YEAR: New Ulm will host the Second District American Legion Baseball Tournament next year. However it will not be called the Second District Tournament but instead a "zone" tournament. There may be some shuffling of teams with the possibility of Hutchinson, St. Peter or LeCenter coming down. There is also the possibility of a Metro team dropping into the new zone.