VFW baseball falls to Armstrong in semifinals

The Forest Lake VFW baseball team closed its season last week in the semifinals of the Seventh District Final Eight Tournament after going 3-2 in post-season showing.

In the first-round 11-1 loss to Washburn, Post 4210 struggled defensively and allowed extra base runners on walks to give Washburn a 5-0 lead out of the gates in the first inning. Forest Lake was unable to string together hits against a starting lefty on the mound and fell in the fifth inning to the 10-run rule.

The loss put Forest Lake in the loser’s bracket elimination game against Centennial, where Forest Lake squeaked out a comeback 5-4 win.

Centennial had Post 4210 on the ropes after taking a 4-0 lead in the top of the seventh inning. Forest Lake took advantage of some wayward pitching and defensive struggles in the bottom of the seventh to make it a 4-3 game. With bases loaded and two outs, Joe Rydel crushed the ball to the Centennial third basemen, who knocked the ball down but could not complete the throw. Forest Lake scored on the play to extend the game to extra innings.

Matt Wallner took the mound for Post 4210 for his fourth inning of relief and retired Centennial in the top of the eighth. Forest Lake’s Jake Foss was hit by a pitch, then Nick McCormick sacrificed, allowing Foss to advance all the way to third base. Ryan Baniecke was hit by a pitch, putting runners on the corners with one out. Hunter Cottrell was called on for a suicide squeeze and dropped down a perfect squeeze bunt, scoring Foss and advancing Post 4210 to Sunday against Robbinsdale Cooper.

Forest Lake’s right-hander Clayton Edstrom bounced back from an uncharacteristic early exit on Friday to throw a gem against the Cooper Hawks. Edstrom scattered four hits and struck out five on his way to a complete game and shutout victory. Forest Lake was able to push across the only run Edstrom needed in the third inning.

The VFW squad faced top-seeded Blaine next and won 7-2.

Ryan Baniecke went four innings on short rest and Rydel pitched three scoreless frames in only his second appearance of the season to preserve a win. Forest Lake trailed 2-1 before stringing together a five-run inning in the top of the fifth to secure the win and advance Post 4210 to the semifinal matchup against Armstrong.

Forest Lake’s battle for the district title stopped here, where Armstrong proved too strong with an 11-0 win after a three-run home run and grand slam came off the bat of their right fielder.

Armstrong advanced to the finals against Maple Grove. Maple Grove defeated Armstrong and will advance to the state tournament.

Post 4210 finished the year with a record of 23-10.