CHANHASSEN - Just when it looked like the odds were against New Ulm Gold, it found a way to overcome those odds and live to fight another day.
Down 5-1 in an elimination bracket game against Eastview, Gold scored seven unanswered runs starting in the top of the sixth inning to defeat Eastview 8-5 in the 2012 American Legion Baseball State Tournament at Chanhassen High School.
The win means New Ulm (25-9) will play at 10 a.m. today against Minneapolis Giant Valley in another elimination bracket game at Chanhassen High School.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm Legion Gold first baseman Matt Bergmann (15) waits for the throw from shortstop Kevin Larson as Tri-City Red’s Niklas Anderson (1) slides into second base during the opening round of the American Legion State Tournament Friday in Chanhassen.
Jason Shaul hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh to put Gold up 7-5. Gold added another run in the ninth to seal the deal.
Gold dropped its first game of the day against Tri City Red 9-5 before rallying in the second game behind Colin Wendinger. Wendinger went the distance for Gold, getting stronger as the game progressed. He allowed eight hits and struck out seven. Most important, he got out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the win.
"He's been big like that all year, and in big situations like that, he did it again for us today," Gold slugger Zach Hoffmann said of Wendinger's performance. "You can't ask for more out of a pitcher. It might not have been his best stuff today, but he won us the ballgame."
Hoffmann gave New Ulm its first run when he hit a solo homer in the first. But that was the last run New Ulm scored until the sixth, at which point it took over the game.
"Definitely, after last game, you wanna start out right," Hoffmann said. "We wanted to give [Wendinger] a little help and we kind of had a little dull moment, but we came through in the end and that was big."
Eastview scored twice in the third inning after Evan DeCovick and Patrick Strey had RBI singles. Eastview then tacked on three more off Wendinger in the fourth, but that was all Wendinger gave up the rest of the way.
Adam Moorse took the loss for Eastview. He gave up four runs in just 1/3 of an inning.
Despite the first-inning home run from Hoffmann, it took a while for Gold to get its offense rolling.
"I think we were being just a little selective," Hoffmann said. "The first couple of innings we were swinging at bad pitches and we finally got to him."
Down 5-1 in the sixth, Gold scored twice on Jory Dove's two-run single to cut it to 5-3 before Hoffmann's double in the seventh scored Kevin Larson and Tim Kehren. That tied it at 5-5.
Shaul followed with a long home run to right and Gold felt much better in the dugout after that point.
"That was good," Hoffmann said. "We were a little down after they scored a few runs, but obviously it's an elimination game and that was a big pick-us-up. That put the exclamation point on it and it gave us confidence I think."
Hoffmann finished the second game with three hits, three runs and three RBI. Kehren scored two runs and Shaul had two hits, including the two-run home run. Dove also had two RBI and Erich Prokosch was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded for New Ulm's final run in the ninth.
In the first game against Tri City Red, Jordan Guggisberg took the loss for Gold. He went four innings and allowed six hits and six runs.
Hoffmann had three hits and Shaul was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI. He hit a three-run double in the top of the seventh to cut the Tri City lead to 9-5.
Tri City scored four runs in the bottom of the third after starting the inning with four straight hits, the big hit coming off the bat of Max Knutson that scored two runs. Nick Anderson added an RBI single to make it 4-0 early on.
Gold responded with a run in the top of the fourth. Hoffmann and Shaul had back-to-back singles and Dan Blackstad singled to score Hoffmann to cut the Tri City lead to 4-1.
However, Tri City responded with two runs in the bottom of the fourth after Knutson drove in two more runs to make it 6-1. Tri City added to that lead off of Blackstad, who entered the game in the fifth inning. Sam Hentges had a bases-loaded triple that upped Tri City's lead to 9-1. That was all of the scoring that Tri City needed as it rode the arm of Karl Elfstrom to victory.
Elfstrom pitched six innings and allowed six hits and one run.
Gold finished the game with 10 hits and stranded nine runners. Gold also had three runners picked off on the base paths by Tri City catcher Lars Anderson.