Eden Prairie comes through with 5-0 run before falling in bracket play
With one game during eight days, Eden Prairie Post 580 Legion 1, was ready to embark on the Gopher Classic, as Round Lake Stadium served as a site for games Friday-Sunday.
Eden Prairie won the site with a 5-0 record to advance to the knockout tournament stage which began Monday.
Omaha Millard Prep Post 52 held on in a shootout for a 12-11 win to eliminate Eden Prairie which scored 12 runs total in the previous four games leading up to Monday.
“It was a successful weekend in that I feel like we won the most challenging pool in the tournament,” Eden Prairie coach Valdie Magstadt said about the pool that included Billings, Montana; Elkhorn, Nebraska; Fargo, North Dakota; Rochester Patriots and West St. Paul. Eden Prairie also faced a tough schedule at the Firecracker Tournament in Rapid City, South Dakota where they played four state champions, earning a share of the tournament title.
“The challenge of the [Gopher Classic] came in the length and need for pitching. We did everything to give ourselves a chance to win but we just didn’t have any more arms left,” Magstadt said. “We had guys pitching who we haven’t used all summer and overall it put us in a good spot for a final push to sub-state and hopefully the state tournament.”
Being in high-pressure situations late in games against quality pitching is the type of situation the coaching staff wanted to see the team handle, knowing they will be in similar situations at sub-state with the season on the line.
“The important thing was that we found a way to get a run across so we don’t just need to slug the ball around,” Magstadt said. “We can execute in tight games, manufacture runs and hold up defensively where one run is such an important thing.”
The only game for the Eden Prairie Legion team since leaving Rapid City, South Dakota was a tough 2-1 loss to Eagan on July 8.
Offense was at a premium with only three combined runs on eight hits. The pitchers combined to strike out 19 batters.
The lone Eden Prairie run was scored on a double from Joe Cornelius, allowing Tyler Chase to score from third base. Chase reached on a bunt single.
Brandt Thompson tossed a two-hit shutout over five innings with six strikeouts and three walks before Tyson Sirek and Connor Hemme each worked on the inning.
As host, Eden Prairie opened play in the Gopher Classic as part of the first game on Friday morning. EP earned a 17-2 win over West St. Paul in just four innings.
EP erupted for an 8-run second inning.
Hemme, Sirek, Brenden Donahue and Noah Pricco each had a pair of hits while Donahue and Joey Danielson each scored four hits. The team collectively worked the count for eight walks including two each from Donahue and Jordan Amundson. Spencer Puett got into the act with a triple.
Danielson had two walks and stole two bases.
Sirek earned the complete-game win needing 96 pitches to get through four innings. He struck out five batters and walked four.
Eden Prairie’s Ben Shepard limited Elkhorn, Nebraska to six hits in a 6-0 complete-game win to close out the first day of play with a second win. He struck out nine batters with only two walks on six hits over 106 pitches.
Eden Prairie opened strong, scoring three times in the first inning to set the tone.
Danielson went 2-for-3 from the leadoff spot while Donahue and Amundson also picked up one hit each. The top three batters in the Eden Prairie lineup accounted for five runs. Sirek picked up two RBIs and Hemme drew the lone walk.
Joe Cornelius came through with a sac bunt to score Puett to make it 4-0 with one out in the fourth inning.
Eden Prairie opened Saturday with a walk-off win over Rochester 4-3 thanks to Spencer Larson’s line drive to right field to break up the tie game as Cornelius scored to end it.
The Patriots tied the game up in the home half of the seventh inning before EP ended it dramatically.
“That was a big win for us against a team should’ve won and had it in control but let them back in and credit Rochester and their pitcher but the important thing for us was to get a run across,” Magstadt said. Hemme continues to hold down the role as the pitcher to enter the game late in a crucial spot. “He gave up a tying run but has assumed that late role. He has a presence about him, is confident in his stuff and is not overwhelmed by the situation. At times he is going to get hit but the nice thing about him is he wants to get the ball and get back out there.”
Eden Prairie’s Nico Pricco went 2-for-3 while seven different batters picked up a hit.
Another late hit on Saturday helped Eden Prairie defeat Billings, Montana 2-1. This time it was Amundson with an RBI double with two outs to provide the key swing of a bat.
Danielson tied the game up by scoring Danny Pahl earlier in the inning.
Thompson gave up one run on three hits while striking out 10 Billings Royals batters to go with two walks over seven innings.
Eden Prairie closed out the pool play with a 4-1 win over a 37-3 Fargo Post 2 team on Sunday evening. Donahue, Anderson, Nathan Miller and Cornelius provided the singles.
Danny Pahl worked the first five innings for EP and was, “as good as we could ask for, mixing speeds and throwing three pitches for strikes,” Magstadt said.
Monday’s final game of the tournament against Omaha featured Amundson going 2-for-3 driving in four runs. He drove in Danielson with a 2-run home run in the first inning.
The Amundson and Danielson pair continue to set the tone for the team in the dugout and the field. “We rely on those two for a lot, offensively, anchor our defense and are out there every day,” Magstadt said. “They expect to be out there every day and their leadership has been just terrific. They are a great example for the younger guys to continue to build our program up.”
Eden Prairie exploded for seven runs in the third inning which featured four consecutive walks.
The experience gained over the last 13 games, is something Magstadt said is valuable to the development of the team that only comes against high-level teams and in high-pressure situations. “Those games are going to get us better,” he said.
Eden Prairie 2 went 0-5 at the Anoka Pool playing at Castle Field. Magstadt said after talking with the coaches, they were in each game late but defensive lapses or big-time hits by the opposition hurt EP. New Ulm hit a 2-run home run in the sixth inning, Anoka led by one run going into the sixth inning before breaking the game open and Forest Lake pulled out a 5-3 win against EP.
Eden Prairie will regroup quickly to host Excelsior at Round Lake Stadium in South Hennepin League play on Wednesday. The dash to the end of the regular season concludes with a road game at Chanhassen on July 18 before hosting the Park Railcats at 7:45 p.m. on Friday.
Chanhassen High School will host the Sub-State tournament on July 23-28 while Cold Springs is the site for the state tournament this season, July 31-Aug. 4.