‘D’ lets Post 7662 down in districtsDefense was the cornerstone of the Farmington VFW baseball team's turnaround in last week's sub-district tournament. Three straight well-played, low-scoring victories over Inver Grove Heights, Rosemount and South St. Paul qualified the team for the district tournament after an 8-15 regular season.
By: Matt Steichen, The Farmington Independent
Defense was the cornerstone of the Farmington VFW baseball team's turnaround in last week's sub-district tournament. Three straight well-played, low-scoring victories over Inver Grove Heights, Rosemount and South St. Paul qualified the team for the district tournament after an 8-15 regular season.
Once Post 7662 got to the district tournament, however, that defense seemed to regress back to regular-season form. A throwing error on a potential double play ball opened the door to a three-run sixth inning for Fairmont in Thursday afternoon's 8-4 first-round loss in Green Isle, then four more defensive miscues led to six unearned runs for Sleepy Eye in Friday's second-round elimination game.
"The Farmington Tigers of old showed up again," said VFW and Farmington High School varsity coach Mike Winters. "The Fairmont game wasn't as bad as the second game. Fairmont played well enough to win it, but I don't think Sleepy Eye did. It's frustrating when you know you had a chance to win it — and it's big to win that first one."
But Farmington couldn't pull off the first one in its first district tournament appearance since 2004 and then failed to turn the tide in its second game in the eight-team bracket. In all, eight of the 17 runs Post 7662 surrendered came in the sixth innings of the two contests. That didn't allow much time to rally. Post 7662 called it a summer having accumulating a record of 12-19, including a 7-7 record in league play.
"The biggest thing is to keep them playing and playing against quality competition," Winters said of the summer season. "For most of the summer, especially in the tournaments, we played quality competition. The league didn't go as well as we'd hoped, but we lost 4-5 one-run games. When we were able to field our best lineup, we were very competitive."
Winters expects several players he coached on the VFW squad this summer to make an impact at the varsity level next spring. The Tigers lost a large group of seniors to graduation when the 2008 spring season came to a close.
"From this group there's probably going to be 4-5 starters and a few role players, as well," Winters said. "I think this group will have a big impact on how successful we are next year. Even though we were seven games under .500, we had a lot of positives from this group. I feel with this group and the one ahead of them, we can mix and match and put out a pretty good product next year."
Post 7662 overcame a 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 lead before a couple of defensive miscues allowed Fairmont to regain the lead late in Thursday's tournament opener.
Fairmont took control early with single runs in the second, third and fourth innings against Farmington starter Kyle Winkleman. Post 7662 got two of those runs back in the bottom of the fourth when Nick Albano walked and scored on an error and Matt Rudorfer ripped an RBI single.
An inning later, Post 7662 took a brief lead thanks to Jolliff's two-run double. It was one of the team's four hits.
The advantage was short-lived, however, as Fairmont loaded the bases to start the sixth and scored two of it's three runs on a wild throw from third base on a potential double play ball.
Sleepy Eye 9,
Game 2 followed a similar script for Post 7662: They took an early lead, then rallied their way back into the game only to see it slip away after a sixth-inning implosion.
This time Sleepy Eye was the beneficiary, scoring unearned runs in the first, third and sixth innings of a 9-4 victory. Three of the five sixth-inning runs allowed by Farmington starter Albano were unearned.
Albano allowed nine runs (three earned) on six hits while striking out four over five innings. Jolliff came on in relief in the sixth and got the final three outs.
Post 7662 took its only lead of the game in the top of the first on doubles by Nick Pierce and Albano. The three-run rally in the top of the sixth was highlighted by another Pierce double. Pierce and Albano each supplied two of the team's seven hits.