Forest Lake Legion baseball coach Valdie Magstadt said the final week of Post 225’s 2014 wasn’t always pretty, but their tenacity took them to the title series.
The Legion boys finished second in section play after going 3-2 last week, losing only to eventual champions Tri-City Red.
Forest Lake kicked off its postseason tournament last Wednesday against Maplewood Green, winning 6-1 behind pitcher Joey Vacinek, who went eight innings while giving up two hits and striking out 15 batters. Offensively, Matt Wallner went 2-4 with a double and two runs scored.
Last Thursday, the Forest Lake boys faced White Bear Lake on the Bears’ home turf and won again, 7-4. Clayton Edstrom came in as relief on the mound in the eighth inning when his squad trailed 4-1. Edstrom held the opponent scoreless while Post 225 rattled off three runs in the seventh inning with the help of singles by Nick McCormick and Vacinek to tie the game at four apiece.
Forest Lake scored three more in the eighth inning to seal the victory when Joe Rydel drew a walk, followed by a double by John Suess to score Rydel. Edstrom was hit by a pitch, and Logan Walker produced a bunt single to load the bases. Wallner then laced a two-run double to put Forest Lake up 7-4.
In addition to Wallner’s key hit, Rydel went 1-2 at the plate with an RBI double and two walks.
Post 225 then sufferened an 11-1 loss in eight innings on Friday. Magstadt said his squad had numerous chances to score but left a lot of runners on base. The loss prompted another matchup against Maplewood Green on Saturday, which Forest Lake won 8-7 in “a wild one,” according to the head coach.
Edstrom again came in as relief and recorded three innings on the mound, in which he gave up two runs on four hits with one strikeout.
Forest Lake was tied at two with Maplewood through five innings, but fell behind 5-2 in the top of the sixth inning. Wallner rocked a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to close the gap at 5-3, but fell behind, 7-3, in the top of the ninth inning.
Magstadt said the competitiveness of his team was on full display in the bottom of the ninth inning. Rydel doubled to start things off, while Suess and Edstrom were hit by pitches to load the bases. Walker drew a walk to score one run, followed by an RBI single by Brandon Rogers to bring the score to 7-5. McCormick reached base on a fielder’s choice before Wallner connected at the plate for a two-run RBI double to even the score at seven.
With runners at second and third base, Maplewood attempted to intentionally walk Vacinek. At a 3-0 count, the opposing pitcher threw a wild pitch, allowing the winning run to cross the plate and hand Forest Lake an 8-7 win to move on to the championship.
Wallner led the offense, going 2-4 with a home run, three RBIs and one run scored. Rydel and Rogers both contributed two hits on the game.
Unfortunately Forest Lake’s run at the section title would end there, as they prepared to take on Tri-City Red in a two-game series; the opponents remained undefeated in the double-elimination tournament.
Forest Lake fell 16-6 after digging an 8-0 deficit in the first inning on Sunday. Post 225 came within two runs in the fifth inning, but couldn’t find a groove at the plate or in the field, going through five pitchers on the mound.
The Forest Lake Legion team went 16-9 overall this season. Magstadt said he was pleased with the “never-quit attitude” his players displayed all season.
“I was really, really impressed with our guys this week,” the coach said. “We had a good run. It’s always disappointing to lose the last game, but they played a good team. It wasn’t always pretty, but they didn’t quit, went out there and competed every single day, and the kids really gave a good effort.”
Magstadt was also excited about the experience the high school athletes gained from a playoff atmosphere.
“It’s just invaluable, especially for those varsity players next year, it’s just invaluable to get this level and speed of play,” he said. “Any experience is only going to help them going into next spring.”