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Legion baseball: Tough competition quiets Post 189

Farmington baserunner Spencer Merle is blocked off the plate by Coon Rapids' catcher during Sunday's game in the Gopher Classic in Bloomington. Post 189 lost four out of five games in the 84-team tournament.

Farmington received a tough draw in its first appearance at the 84-team Gopher Classic.

Post 189 was assigned to Site 4, where they went up against Bloomington Gold, De Pere (Wis.), Calgary (Canada), Coon Rapids and Bemidji in a span of three days at Red Haddox Field in Bloomington. The team opened with a 12-0 rout of Bloomington Gold before dropping its next four games -- while scoring three total runs -- and bowing out of the country's largest Legion baseball tournament.

"We really felt we had one of the toughest brackets of the 14," Farmington coach Andy Pierskalla said. "DePere has been in the Wisconsin state tournament for six straight years or something like that, Coon Rapids is ranked No. 5 in the state and Bemidji was second in the state in school ball. And Calgary is playing a 75-game schedule this summer. It was nice that we competed in four of the five games."

Post 189 actually scored more runs in the first inning of the first game than they did in their next 30 innings combined. Twelve batters came to the plate in the top of the first against Bloomington and eight came around to score thanks to seven hits and a pair of walks. Jordan Lugowski and Spencer Merle each had two hits in the frame.

Lugowski and Jared Lipinski each finished with three hits in the five-inning game.

"We didn't know what to expect from Bloomington," Pierskalla said. "Everybody was on their pitcher, saw lots of pitches and put the ball in play. It was a heck of a way to start."

JD Hinks cruised on the mound, holding Bloomington to three hits and walking none over five shutout innings.

RBI singles by Merle and Nick Newman gave Farmington a 2-1 lead through five innings against De Pere later in the day, but Post 230 plated three runs in the bottom of the sixth against starter Tyler VanWinkle to rally for a 4-2 win.

A leadoff walk got the sixth-inning rally started and De Pere followed with a pair of run-scoring triples before capping off the inning with a sacrifice fly.

"They had some great hitters and they started to figure (VanWinkle) out," Pierskalla said. "The guys definitely wanted that game back. They were a beatable team, it just didn't work out in the end."

The Post 189 bats went silent over the final three games as the team collected just two hits in each contest. Bobby Eckert's two singles were the only imperfections for the Calgary Redbirds in a 10-0 shutout on Saturday.

Farmington continued to struggle at the plate on Sunday afternoon, but a gutty effort on the mound from Park Holmstrom kept Post 189 knotted with Coon Rapids at 0-0 through five innings.

Post 189 nearly took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, but Spencer Merle was tagged out at the plate attempting to score on a fly ball to medium center field. Coon Rapids seized the momentum after that and touched up Holmstrom for six runs (four earned) in the sixth.

Calgary and Coon Rapids each finished 4-1 in pool play, with Coon Rapids taking top honors thanks to a 6-3 head-to-head victory.

Post 189 (7-12) got another solid pitching performance in its final game of the tournament Sunday afternoon as Lipinski held defending Class 3A state runner-up Bemidji to three runs in a 3-1 loss.

"Our pitching this season has been phenomenal," Pierskalla said. "That's a big positive that we'll take into next season because we haven't always had reliable pitching the last couple years."

Merle scored the lone run when he singled, stole two bases and came home on an Eckert sacrifice fly in the fourth.