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VFW baseball: Promise for the future

Farmington VFW pitcher Nate Graham throws a pitch during the second inning of Thursday's 4-2 loss to New Prague.

Even though this year's VFW baseball team finished with a record a little under the .500 mark, assistant coach Tyler Luhman believes some of his players will be ready to contribute to the Farmington varsity squad by the time next spring rolls around.

"Our record doesn't show it, but I felt like this year we had a really talented team, and I have a feeling a lot of these guys are going to be playing or challenging for varsity spots," Luhman said. "I think, if not this year then the next, that the Farmington varsity baseball team should be really good in the conference and challenge for the championship."

Some of those talented individual performances were sprinkled throughout the VFW's final three games of the regular season. Jake Baskerville continued his hot hitting with a 4 for 4 effort and Nick Newman had four RBIs in last Tuesday's 13-10 win over Eagan. Jonathan Ellis didn't allow an earned run in seven innings pitched in Wednesday's 7-1 win at New Prague. And Nate Graham provided 6 1/3 innings of one-run relief while John Stibal and Ryan Schoening came up with big hits in Thursday's season-ending 4-2 home loss to New Prague.

A rough first inning Thursday was all that kept Farmington from a 3-0 week. Ty Vincent started and allowed three walks, a hit and a hit-by-pitch during New Prague's three-run first. Graham got the final out of the first, then held New Prague to four hits while walking five and striking out five over the next six frames.

The Farmington offense couldn't cut into the deficit until the fifth when Baskerville reached on an error and scored on Stibal's single. It was still 4-1 when Baskerville led off the seventh with a hit, stole his second base and scored on Graham's base hit.

The VFW offense managed just four hits in Wednesday's game, but two of them came during a six-run fifth inning that broke the game open. Schoening led off the fifth by drawing a walk, then a Drew Hegseth hit-by-pitch and a Marty Rivera walk loaded the bases for Baskerville, who drove in another run with a free pass. Vincent was then hit by a pitch to score the second run, and Graham and Newman followed with run-scoring hits to close out the inning.

The fifth provided plenty of cushion for Ellis, who held New Prague to three hits and two walks while striking out five. He set down 11 straight batters before issuing a pair of free passes in the seventh.

"He was throwing a lot of strikes, pitching to contact and letting our defense do the work," Luhman said. "He got a ton of ground balls and that benefitted us because our infield doesn't make very many errors."

Farmington opened the week by plating eight runs in the first two innings of a 13-10 slugfest against Eagan.

In addition to going 4 for 4, Baskerville pitched the first 4 2/3 innings and allowed 10 runs on eight hits and four walks. Graham came on in relief and picked up the win, allowing just one hit over the final 2 1/3 innings.

Graham also scored three runs and Ellis had two hits and two runs scored.