The Austin VFW Post #1216 baseball team, one of three teams representing District 1 opened the 2022 Minnesota State VFW baseball tournament at Marcusen Park Thursday morning versus Champlin Park from District 7, and Champlin Park righthander Carter Steffan struck out 12 while pitching a complete game 1-hitter to help lead his squad to a 3-0 win.
Champlin Park tallied two runs in the top of the first inning when designated hitter Andrew Jankovich looped a two-out, two-RBI single into shallow right-center field, and they tallied their other run with two outs in the fourth when third baseman Evan Whipple scored when catcher Ty McGee was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Steffan did the rest on the mound as the only hit he would give up for the game to Austin was a soft liner off the bat of catcher Dakota Retterath with one out in the bottom of the first. Steffan struck out six batters in a row from the first through the third inning, and Austin did not advance a runner to third base until Steffan filled the bases with three straight two-out walks in the bottom of the fifth to Isaac Osgood, Landon Meyer and Sam Oelfke, but as would prove to be the case throughout the game, Steffan came up with the big pitch when he needed to as he induced a foul pop-up to catcher Ty McGee to end the threat.
Austin’s best chance to get on the scoreboard came in the sixth inning when Peyton Ransom and Ethan Anderson both reached on Champlin Park errors to put runners at the corners with nobody out, but Steffan then answered by striking out the next three hitters in a row to end the threat. Both teams stranded multiple runners on base from the fourth through the sixth innings, as Champlin Park, who stranded 13 runners in the game left seven men on base through the three innings, while Austin stranded six in that same time frame.
Steffan earned the win on the mound for Champlin Park by giving up just the one hit and striking out 12, walking five batters and hitting two others with pitches. Peyton Ransom was tagged with the loss for Austin as he pitched the first five innings and gave up three runs, all earned, on seven hits, striking out seven, walking five and hitting one batter. Lefthander Blake Cummings came on in relief to start the sixth and gave up no runs on one ht, striking out three and walking four.
The loss to Champlin Park put Austin up against Andover in the first round of the elimination bracket at Dick Seltz Field Thursday evening, and it was Post #1216 jumping out to a 6-0 lead, and then withstanding a rally from Andover that was halted when pitcher Blake Cummings struck out an Andover batter looking on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh for a 6-4 win.
Post #1216 jumped out in front 6-0 with two runs in the top of the third, two more in the fourth and an additional two runs in the fifth, only to see Andover rally back with four runs in the bottom of the fifth. Austin’s pitching and defense were able to shut the door from there, as Sam Oelfke pitched into the fifth inning to earn the win, giving up four runs, two earned, on six hits, striking out three and walking none. Peyton Ransom finished off the fifth inning and gave up no runs on one hit, striking out one and walking two. Cummings earned the two inning save for Austin by giving up no runs on two hits, striking out three and walking three.
Offensively for Austin, Dakota Retterath led the way for Post #1216 by going 3 for 3 with a triple and two RBI’s, Sam Oelfke, Ethan Anderson, Issac Nelson and Isaac Osgood all went 1 for 4 with an RBI and Cooper Napton picked up the other hit for Austin in three officials trips to the plate.
With the win, Austin is now 10-9 on the season, and Post #1216 will try to continue their trek back through the elimination bracket with a game against Totino-Grace at Dick Seltz Field at 11:00 a.m. Totino-Grace was felled by Cold Spring 6-3 in the quarterfinals Thursday. If Austin wins, they would play again at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon against the loser of the Northfield/Foley game in the winner’s bracket semi-finals, which gets underway at 11:00 a.m. this morning at Marcusen Park.