Gold generates runs heading into final stretch

Jason Olson
Sports Editor

Generating runs has not been a problem for Bloomington Post 550 Gold Legion baseball. It’s keeping pace with the opposition, at times that has proven difficult with a 6-12 record with one week until playoffs.

Bloomington Gold’s Matt Saaranen pitched against Champlin Park in the Gopher Classic opener Friday. (Sun Current staff photo by Jason Olson)

“We’re in every game,” first-year head coach Zach Horn said, “The thing is missing spots is really hurting us this year.

“I’d say its an experience and timing thing with a new coaching staff and new guys on the team.”

After wins over Chester Bird (10-0 on June 20) and Wayzata (3-2 on June 21) followed by a 4-0 loss to Excelsior on June 27 Gold hit the road for a Fourth of July weekend tournament in Rochester where the team went 3-1 with wins over Madison (Wisconsin), Edison and Gretna (Nebraska) and a 9-8 loss to Rochester Patriots to start play on Saturday.

“We played a really good tournament and I’d say we were hitting our spots which helped us out but we also had some timely hitting,” Horn said. “Guys approaches got better at the plate and they started hitting the ball where it was pitched instead of doing too much.”

Bloomington scored 33 runs in four games. Gold opened the tournament with a 7-6 win over Madison thanks to three-run rallies in the second and third innings and added the winning run in the top of the seventh inning.

“As of late, our approaches have gotten so much better and you can see it with our hits in the game and the energy in the dugout makes a difference,” Horn said. “More energy. Better at bats. Better plays in the field.”

Horn credits pitcher Nathan Petsinger with improving that mood in the dugout. “When he’s not pitching, he really brings the juice, as we like to say. He gets guys fired up to be here.”

Devon Barnum had an impressive day at the plate going 1-for-1 with three walks and scored three times. He led off the seventh inning with a double to left field and moved to third base on a Matt Saaranen flyout.

Hoyt DeVolder brought in Barnum with a hard ground ball to right field for his third hit of the game and second RBI from the lead-off spot.

Caleb VanDerBeek also had a multiple-hit game from the second spot in the lineup going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a walk. John Kern went 2-for-4 with a double and scored twice.

DeVolder shutout Madison in 2 2/3 innings of relief pitching scattering three hits with a walk and one strike out after Ben Cradle tossed 89 pitches through four innings.

Saturday began with another close game as Gold tied the game against Rochester in the top of the seventh inning after taking a 7-2 lead with a five-run fourth inning.

Bloomington’s patient approach at the plate yielded seven walks and six hits. DeVolder and Kern each scored twice.

The big rally in the fourth inning began with Kyle Conzemius taking a two-out single on a fly ball to right field. DeVolder and Kern walked to load the bases for Swenson whose single scored Conzemius to make it 3-2. Saaranen walked followed by a single by Barnum and a walk by Schuette to load the bases for Jake Ekholm. Saaranen scored on an error by the Rochester infielder as Ekholm safely reached first base.

The offense didn’t let up in the afternoon game on Saturday which Gold won over Edison in five innings. Seven Bloomington batters had hits, four of which had two or more hits. Swenson led the way with three hits, two of which were doubles and he drove in a run. Jimmy Mrozek went 1-for-4, driving in and scoring twice. Saaranen also knocked in a pair of runs going 2-for-4 and DeVolder continued to produce in the lead-off spot going 2-for-3 with two runs.

Gold’s Jonah Smallfield worked all five innings, scattering five hits and two walks with four strike outs over 84 pitches.

First-year Bloomington Gold coach Zach Horn talks with the team after an 8-5 loss to Champlin Park in the Gopher Classic opener.
(Sun Current staff photo by Jason Olson)

Bloomington closed out the tournament with a 9-6 win over Gretna (Nebraska) on Sunday morning. Gold scored six times in the fifth inning to build more than enough of a lead. Kern, Barnum, Schuette and Cradle each had two hits. Jack Brockman went 0-for-2 but drew three walks and scored once. Conzemius drew two walks and Barum went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and scored twice.

Brockman led off the big rally in the fifth inning with a walk and Cradle followed with a single to left field. VanDerBeek brought in Brockman with a base hit to center field and Kern brought in Cradle with a line drive to left field.

Barnum emptied the bases with a deep fly ball to left field for a double to make it 8-4 and later scored on a ground ball single by Schuette.

A midweek visit to Waconia proved to be another close contest with the reigning state high school Class 3A state champs coming back from down 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning to top Gold on July 5 7-6 in eight innings. Waconia’s prep team was 26-0.

Gold scored three times in the first inning with DeVolder slicing a lead-off double to set the tone. Swenson reached on an error to bring in DeVolder for the early 1-0 lead. Barnum hit a fly ball single to right field and Jake Ekholm reached base on a ground ball to the short stop, allowing Swenson to score to make it 2-0.

Schuette stepped to the plate and Barnum scored on a wild pitch before Schuette reached on a ground ball through the right side of the infield.

Swenson made the most of another ground ball, this time to left field with two-outs in the second inning to build a 4-0 lead.

Waconia responded with a three-run home run to make it a 4-3 Gold lead.

Kern and Ekholm each had three hits as six Gold batters had two hits. Ekholm and Swenson each drove in two runs.

VanDerBeek struck out five Waconia batters and walked two over five innings, scattering nine hits and three unearned runs before DeVolder and Swenson worked the final 2 1/3 innings of relief.

Gopher Classic

Gold was one of 16 host sites for pool play at the Jim Hanus Gopher Classic July 7-9 with Nebraska powerhouse Creighton Prep going 5-0 to move into the championship round of 16 which began play at four sites on Monday, including Haddox Field. Tuesday saw the final four teams left play down at Veteran’s Field in Minnetonka to decide the 2017 champion of what is billed as the largest Legion baseball tournament in the country.

Follow sports editor Jason Olson on Twitter at @SunSportsJason.