NEW ULM - For the fourth consecutive year and for the 32nd time in their history, the New Ulm Legion baseball team is heading to the Minnesota State American Legion Baseball Tournament.
Gold (25-7) will square off against a familiar foe in Chaska at Friday 10:15 a.m. at the Alimagnet Park in Burnsville.
New Ulm Gold defeated Chaska 5-4 in this year's Upper Midwest Classic.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm Legion Gold’s Jake Gieseke lays down a bunt during the Minnesota Sub-State 2 championship game in Sleepy Eye.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
First-year Gold coach Jeremy Drexler knows that Chaska is a very good team.
"The first time we played them we saw their best pitcher (Riley Sweeny) who is headed to play (D-I ) baseball at the University of Nebraska-Omaha next year and I am sure that we will see him on Friday," Drexler said.
Drexler said that his team is playing its best baseball heading into the state tournament.
"We have had a few more hits this past weekend but we also saw some better pitching than we had seen before that," he said. "And defensively we are playing very well right now and our pitchers have been doing a great job of throwing strikes and keeping the ball down."
Gold has been led this season on the mound by righthander Chase Meyer, who has a 7-0 record along with a 2.31 ERA. Meyer has logged the second-most innings this year for New Ulm at 35 2/3 innings behind Collin Helget. Drexler said that he is leaning towards starting Meyer against Chaska.
Tyler Dittrich comes in with a 5-1 record and a 2.28 ERA while Tanner Kluis sports a 3-2 mark and a 3.00 ERA.
Wyatt Peterson, Nick Dewanz, Helget and Nate Palmer each have two wins this season.
Drexler said that for the most part, his team has been a model of consistency.
"We did have a rough stretch in the week that we lost to Waconia and Hutchinson (who is also in the state tournament) where it looked like we were not playing with any confidence," Drexler said. "And we had some bad at-bats at the plate. But since then we have been playing very well."
Peterson leads Gold hitters with a .385 batting average with 24 of his 30 hits being singles. Gabe Knowles, who was mired in a 0-for-15 slump, in the Sub-State 2 Tournament before collecting two hits, is second in batting with a .382 average and is tied for the team lead in doubles with 12. Dewanz comes is at .333 with Helget hitting .321.
Grant Kannegiesser leads New Ulm with 26 RBI with Meyer second with 22. As a team, Gold is hitting .311.
Drexler said that up until the Upper Midwest Classic, he had made sure that everyone was getting their at-bats on a consistent basis.
"We have kind of shored some things up a little more with players in the field and relief pitchers that we trust in Palmer, Dittrich and Dewanz," Drexler said. "Everyone has accepted their role each of them is important."
Drexler said that a small turning point in a season of consistency may have come when Gold had two walk-off wins in the Upper Midwest Classic which carried over to a strong performance in the Gopher Classic.
That momentum carried over to a bottom of the ninth inning win over Mankato National before they did one better with a two-run bottom of the 10th against National to earn another state trip.
"I don't think that the kids fear another team taking a lead on us - they just keep finding ways to win," Drexler said.
While this is the fourth straight trip to the state for a lot of these players. It is the first for Drexler as the coach.
"The kids do all of the work," Drexler said. "I try and put them in the right spot. I am looking forward to it. It is just another week of playing baseball and hanging out with these guys."