VFW Gold tops Champlin Park, falls to Duluth East in rematch

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau Right: New Ulm VFW Gold catcher Landon Barstad looks to throw to first during New Ulm’s VFW Baseball State Tournament game with Champlin Park on Friday.

AUSTIN — After overcoming a four-run deficit earlier in the day to down Champlin Park, the New Ulm VFW Gold baseball team saw its time at state come to an end after running into a familiar foe in Duluth East on Friday night.

New Ulm defeated Champlin Park 10-4 at Dick Seltz Field but fell 8-6 to Duluth East at Marcusen Park in the VFW State Baseball Tournament elimination bracket.

The loss ended New Ulm’s time in the tournament with a 2-2 record.

New Ulm lost its first game of the tournament to Duluth East 8-1 on Thursday. Back-to-back wins, however, moved New Ulm to a rematch with Duluth East, which dropped its second game of the tournament against Cold Spring to end up in elimination play.

In VFW Gold’s first game of the day on Friday, Champlin Park rolled to a four-run first inning. Champlin Park scored two runs on an error, one on an RBI single by Andrew Jankovich and one on a wild pitch by New Ulm starter Levi Franta.

Staff photos by Travis Rosenau New Ulm VFW Gold head coach Collin Helget congratulates Adam Wiltscheck at third base after Wiltscheck drove in two runs during a VFW Baseball State Tournament game with Champlin Park on Friday at Dick Seltz Field in Austin.

Franta rebounded after that inning, however, and so did the rest of the team.

Franta ended up with the complete-game win, giving up six hits and three walks while striking out six. As for the rest of the team and the offense, 10 consecutive runs followed that first inning.

New Ulm’s offense was patient in the third inning against Champlin Park starting pitcher Jankovich, who walked three and hit a batter during the inning. Lucas Suess drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in VFW Gold’s first run of the game before Kaden Larson had a two-run infield single that scored Jake Finstad and pinch runner Parker Kamm.

New Ulm took two more runs in the fourth.

Brock Wellmann scored first in the fourth to tie the game at 4-all after an error. That error occurred after Matt Seidl was attempting to move Wellmann from second to third on a sac bunt. After getting the bunt down, a throwing error allowed Seidl to scamper to second as Wellmann came around to score.

A fielder’s choice later allowed Franta to reach first and bring home Seidl for a 5-4 lead.

Adam Wiltscheck’s two-run double to left scored pinch runner Kaden Peterson and Seidl for a 7-4 lead. Wiltscheck ended up reaching third on the throw in to home plate. Jake Finstad then singled in Wiltscheck for an 8-4 lead.

An RBI single by Wellmann in the sixth and a double play that scored Wiltscheck in the seventh ended the scoring.

“Yes, they did get down four runs right away again, kind of the same thing as yesterday,” New Ulm head coach Collin Helget said. “It would have been easy to roll over and it is what it is and pack the bags and go home, but they didn’t give up on it. They came back, rattled off 10 runs, we hung up a bunch of zeros on the scoreboard, too. Levi settled in on the mound, defense made the plays behind him and the bats stayed hot, so that was good to see.”

Finstad was 3 for 3 and was hit by pitch twice to lead VFW Gold at the plate, while Wiltscheck was 2 for 4.

In the rematch with Duluth East, Duluth East got on the board in the first inning on a groundout. Kamm singled in Wellmann and Logan Mielke in the bottom of the second, though, to put New Ulm ahead 2-1.

Duluth East tied it at 2-2 in the third on an error, but Franta delivered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run single to left to score Finstad and Zach Riederer and give New Ulm a 4-2 lead.

A grand slam from Dylan Cole in the fourth inning pushed Duluth East in front 6-4, however. It added a run apiece in the fifth and sixth innings to go up 8-4 before an error in the sixth inning scored two runs to have New Ulm down 8-6.

Mielke singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but three consecutive popouts ended the game.

“We ran into Duluth, we know we didn’t play a really good game the first game [Thursday], but we brushed it off, they regrouped, they had the right mindset moving forward,” Helget said. “Tonight, yeah, you could kind of look at it as one swing, obviously the grand slam hurts, but we had our opportunities, too, offensively. Defensively, maybe it was an error here or a walk there, there’s so many crucial points in the game.”

Suess took the loss for New Ulm in five innings, giving up eight hits and three walks for five earned runs while striking out two. Peterson pitched two innings in relief and gave up one hit and one walk for one unearned run while fanning one.

Riederer was 2 for 3 to lead New Ulm at the plate against Duluth East.

While the end result wasn’t what VFW Gold wanted, they still put together a strong season and picked up two wins at state.

“As far as the whole season, I’m extremely proud of the group because they made tremendous strides,” Helget said. “I know looking back, they started 0-4. Then after that they went on to rattled off nine straight wins and that was kind of over that stretch with our home tournament. And based off of our record, if I’m remembering correctly, we were 16-13 coming into the state tournament, it would be pretty easy to get overlooked by a lot of these teams. But I knew and I think the team knew and the fans knew and everyone that’s a part of New Ulm baseball knew that we were a much better team than a .500 team. We went on to prove that a little bit, and beyond that, I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

This year’s tournament was the 67th VFW State Baseball Tournament.


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