NEW ULM - After New Ulm Legion Gold upset Eastview in the loser's bracket of the Minnesota State American Legion Baseball Tournament, two words became the linchpin for Gold for the rest of the tournament.
"'Why not,' became our chant and it certainly applied to us," New Ulm Gold coach Bob Weier said as they followed that win with a victory over Giant Valley (which is the Minnehaha Academy High School baseball team) and a win over Lakeville North before falling 5-3 to perennial power Eden Prairie to end their season.
New Ulm's two losses, a 9-5 opening-game loss to Tri-City Red (Mounds View) and to Eden Prairie were games that could have been turned into wins.
"We started out slow against Tri-City," Weier said. "I was hoping that the experience that we gained playing in the three tournaments that we did and against the teams that we did would give us some experience if we got back to the state tournament and then utilize that experience."
In the game against Eden Prairie, Weier said that his team missed out on a lot of scoring opportunities.
"We had the bases loaded a couple of times, runners in scoring position with less than two outs," Weier said. "We didn't take advantage of those chances. Plus we had 12 players on our roster, which is probably short rostered for that many ballgames in a short time. Our gas tank got low at that point."
Weier said that while his team had players who were getting multiple hits in the tournament, "sooner or later the percentages catch up with you."
HOFFMANN DESERVED MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER AWARD; After the state tournament, Cody Westmore of Eden Prairie was named the Most Outstanding Player in the state tournament.,
But in my opinion, that honor was earned by New Ulm Gold's Zach Hoffmann.
Hoffmann was third in batting average at .500 (Westmore .462), second in slugging percentage at .900 (Westmore not in top 10), second in on-base percentage at .630 (Westmore not in top 10). Hoffmann led the tournament in runs scored with 10 (Westmore at 9). Hoffmann was fifth in total hits with 10, Hoffmann led the tournament with two home runs (the only player with more than one. Hoffmann also led in total bases with 18. Hoffmann also led the tournament in walks with seven.
Hoffmann led the state tournament in four categories.
"Before the state tournament started, I glanced through all of the scouting reports of all of the teams in the state and Zach Hoffmann had more home runs than most teams did," Weier said. "He had an awfully good state tournament."
Gold's Jason Shaul also had a great state tournament. Shaul was second in batting average at .529, fifth in slugging percentage at .824, first in on-base percentage at .692, tied for seventh in hits with teammate Kevin Larson with nine, tied for first in RBI with nine, had a home run, was fourth in total bases with 14, had six walks (second) and was tied for first with three times hit by pitch.
"What a hitter," Weier said about Shaul. "He knows exactly what pitch he wants - he is not concerned about the count. He is a good hitter."
Weier said that Colin Wendinger, who threw 138 pitches in the win over Eastview, knew that he was going to get one appearance in the state.
"We felt that Eastview was the best team we were going to play," Weier said. "He was willing to throw on Sunday but I did not want to use him unless we had the lead late in the game."