BY DAVE PEDERSEN
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Upstart Rockford lost to the well-seasoned Delano Legion baseball team 6-2 Monday, but took note of what an established program looks like.
Rockford had not fielded a Legion team in several years until getting going again last season with a very young team. Legion teams are comprised of high school players, some who recently graduated. Last year Rockford had no seniors.
This year coach Tom VanDehey said the team has more seniors, but has struggled to find players, losing some to injury and others to other sports.
Delano, on the other hand, has some players who took part in three state highs school tournaments and the school has gone to state the past four seasons.
Rockford trailed Delano 3-2 in the top of the seventh Monday when Hunter Hart blasted the ball to the wall to drive in two big runs. Rockford loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but could not cash in on the opportunity.
Drew VanDehey had three hits for Rockford, with two hits each by George Faue and Brendon Schumacher. Faue pitched the distance after returning from being injured early in the season.
Also injured and lost for the season is infielder-pitcher Nick Tully, who cracked his ankle. Another key pitcher and infielder, Brock Deering, has decided to give his full attention to playing summer basketball.
The team includes Ben Arens, Aaron Pietsch, Joe Agre, Zach Nelson, Jordan Redepenning, Travis Peterson and Adam Jakes.
“It will take three to five years to re-build the Legion program,” said VanDehey. “We want to change the mindset in Rockford where football and basketball are the big sports and baseball gets overlooked. The new baseball stadium being built in Corcoran will help.”
Delano also played host to the Stars and Stripes Legion tournament, July 3-6. The tourney was set up with two pools of four teams with the top two teams from each pool advancing to a championship bracket.
One pool consisted of Delano, St. Louis Park, Waconia and defending state champion Edina. The second pool included Providence Academy, Minneapolis Southwest, Osseo and Elk River.
Delano started with a 4-2 win over St. Louis Park. Trailing 2-0 in the sixth inning, Zach Muchenhirn blasted a bases loaded triple. Toby Hanson added another run with a sacrifice. Adam Schleper pitched the complete game, allowing two unearned runs.
It was a pitcher’s duel in the second game against Edina in a 1-0 defeat to the eventual tourney champion. Taylor Larson and Tyler Hannan combined to pitch an outstanding game in a tough luck loss. Delano mustered just two hits.
A win was needed against Waconia to advance to the final day of play. Coach Adam Jaunich took a risk and decided to save his top pitcher, Muchenhirn, to face either Osseo or Edina in the championship round.
The strategy did not work has hoped as Waconia won 11-3 to eliminate Delano. In the championship bracket, Edina defeated Elk River and Osseo was victorious over Waconia. Waconia bounced back to win the third place game over Elk River. Edina nudged Osseo 4-2 in the championship game.