State American Legion tourney a success, despite long rain delays on first day

The Pelican Rapids American Legion team, gathered in the dugout prior to their Friday night game against Le Sueur-Henderson.

From left to right: Weston Funk, Logan Fahje, Isaac Olson, Carson McNeal, Matt Osborne, Dillon Such, Brock Sjolie, Ishmael Mejia. In Front of Dugout: Nick Schermerhorn, Coach Nathan Sillerud, Reggie Funk and McHale Korf.
Pelican’s Nick Schermerhorn delivers a pitch late Friday night during Pelican’s loss to Le Sueur-Henderson.
As the “host team,” Pelican played two games in the state tourney–though they did not qualify–which is a custom for the state tourney.
It took a large platoon of volunteers to host a baseball tournament of a statewide scope. Pictured here, the local volunteer grounds-keeping crew preparing for action late Friday night.
Pelican’s Carson McNeal made a valiant effort for this pop-up, but was unable to land the ball in his glove on Saturday.
Matt Osborne threw several impressive innings August

PHOTOS BY LOUIS HOGLUND

Baseball is a game of “good fortune,” as well as skill, said recently retired University of Minnesota Gophers baseball coach Bob Fornasiere.

Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.

Occasionally, the umpire doesn’t call the play correctly.

“The ‘Baseball Gods’ have to be with you,” said Fornasiere, who spoke at the pre-tournament banquet August 2.

The “Baseball Gods,” and Mother Nature, unleashed some cruelty during the first-ever American Legion state baseball tournament August 3-5.

Rains shut down the tournament from about 1:30 to 6:15 p.m. Friday, pushing the day’s action to nearly midnight.

A spirited, but the underdog Pelican American Legion team didn’t take the field until nearly 10 p.m. By midnight, the local squad fell by the ten run rule to Le Sueur-Henderson. Final score was 22-1.

Pelican was in action again Saturday. Matt Osborne pitched some impressive innings–holding Wadena-Deer Creek to four hits, and pitching out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the second.

But–one bad inning sealed the game, and Wadena went on to a 9-0 victory.

Nobody had great expectations from the Pelican Legion team, which played the pair of games as the “host team,” which is a custom for the State American Legion tourney.

That these young players, on an average team, went up against some of the best squads in the entire state, was a testimony to their dedication.

The “Baseball Gods” were kind to Pelican Rapids by Saturday and Sunday, with skies clearing and games proceeding mostly on schedule.

Playing for the championship Sunday afternoon were Le Sueur-Henderson and La Crescent, two southern Minnesota teams. Le Sueur won by shut-out, 5-0. (Complete brackets of tournament action accompany this article.)

Winning the sportsmanship trophy was the northwestern Minnesota team Stephen-Argyle. Outstanding player honors went to Cole Pengilly, the Se Sueur shortstop–who batted .500 and scored seven runs.

A dedicated platoon of Pelican Baseball Association volunteers worked hard on the field and facilities, and there were enumerable comments on how great the diamond looked for the state event.

Concession volunteers were busy all weekend long. “Big thanks goes out to Dave Aaberg, Brent Frazier, Phil and Cindy Stotesbery, Cecil and Penny Moser and all the volunteers,” said Andrew Johnson, Pelican Rapids Baseball Association.

The baseball association has been working on the ambitious project of hosting the state tournament for several years. According to Johnson, the non-profit hopes to break even over the weekend, through ticket and concession revenues. Under terms of hosting the state event, the local organization must provide lodging for the players, and also pay the costs of the Thursday night banquet. Four cases of balls were purchased, and the Pelican association also pays the the umpires.

Hosting the state tourney was especially gratifying for Cecil Moser, who operated the Lake Country Concessions food wagon during the tourney. He and Jerry Wilm were the driving force behind establishing the Pelican Rapids Baseball Association in 1998.

“The association has helped out a lot of kids. We couldn’t have provided the opportunities without the support of the community,” said Moser, who initiated the sale of the billboard advertising sales–which have been a cornerstone of fundraising.