St. Francis wins championship game thriller) In the new American Legion Sub-State tourney format, the Princeton baseball squad displayed a lot of guts in the games hosted on their own Solheim Veterans Field. Unfortunately, it was St. Francis’ year to advance as they won two of three matchups with the Post 216 squad.
The Sub-State 13 Tournament came down to Saturday’s championship games, with Princeton winning the first one 13-1 to keep the season alive. The locals racked up 17 hits in the seven-inning game, led by Zack Ludwig going 4-for-5. Thomas Klaphake was 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI, and both Dan Muench and Sam Archer delivered three hits and two RBI.
Ludwig threw the first inning and a third when a rain delay was called with Princeton leading 8-0. Tanner Kinney then tossed the next 5 2/3s innings to get the win.
The second championship game was a classic pitchers’ battle, with Ludwig taking the mound again for Princeton and going the distance. Klaphake drove in Justin Sjoquist for the game’s first run in the top of the fourth. St. Francis tied it in the bottom of the inning, but Princeton regained the lead when Dalton Mattson doubled and scored on Archer’s base hit.
Again, the Saints tied it in the next half-inning. Pitching and defense then ruled the next few innings. Sjoquist reached on a single in the eighth for Princeton. In the ninth, Ludwig doubled with two outs and Muench drew a walk, but St. Francis got out of that trouble. Tough Saints’ pitching threw 1-2-3 innings in both the 10th and 11th.
In the bottom of the 11th, St. Francis got a leadoff double. The Princeton defense was looking for the bunt, but the batter swung away instead, hitting a grounder up the middle for the tourney-winner.
“It was a tough way for our seniors to end their time with us. But the whole team played hard, and we enjoyed a very good season,” said Princeton Coach Troy Kinney, whose squad finished the summer with a 17-9 mark.
St. Francis opens the Minnesota American Legion State Tournament Aug. 2 (10 a.m.) against strong Eden Prairie at Chanhassen. The tourney runs through Aug. 5, with Edina’s Braemar Field being the site for the last several key games.
Path to Saturday’s games
Princeton began the Sub-State 13 tourney with a 10-0 win over Zimmerman July 23. Luke Hallbeck struck out eight over the seven innings. Nick Zeroth had two doubles, with Ludwig and Klaphake adding two hits each.
On July 24, Princeton handled Cambridge 11-1 as Ludwig shackled the neighbor’s bats through the seven innings. Voce scored the game’s first run after a leadoff walk, a Ludwig single and a Mattson grounder. In the third, Princeton made it 3-1 when Mattson and Zeroth reached on errors, and Archer came through with a two-out single to score both runs. Princeton blew it open with a six-run fourth inning highlighted by hits from Klaphake, Ludwig and Zeroth, then Archer later lined a double to the wall. Zeroth doubled and scored in the fifth for the 10-run advantage.
The final winners’ bracket game Thursday night saw St. Francis defeat Princeton 5-0 as the Saints’ Niedermeyer gave up just five hits.
Friday evening, Princeton stayed alive by defeating Big Lake 10-5. Archer pitched the first 6.3 innings, with Muench getting the win in relief over the final 2.6 innings. Archer belted a grand slam in the eighth inning to open up a 6-5 game; he finished the night with three hits and five RBI. Ludwig, Riley Miller, Kinney and Voce all had two hits against Big Lake.