Post 1216 has high hopes for state tournament
Austin Post 1216 VFW baseball team knew they would host a state tournament early this summer, but they might not have guessed that they would arrive with a lot of confidence, depth and a streak of 22 consecutive wins.
After an overall start of 5-3 and a different batting order in each of his first 16 games, Austin (27-3 overall) is set to end the summer with fireworks as he hosts the tournament. State VFW baseball Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Austin head coach David Lillemon has watched the squad grow throughout the summer and he hopes a participation in a state tournament can serve as the icing on a summer’s cake. already fabulous baseball.
“When the season started we knew we were going to be here and that gave us a goal at the end of the season to work hard on. It’s reassuring to know that you have that jackpot at the end of the tunnel, ”said Lillemon. “What makes it special is that we deserved it. We won the division and the district and we did not come back. The way we played until the end is very gratifying and we are very happy to share this with the community, families and among the players and coaches.
Austin will open the state tournament against the winner from Stewartville and Maple Grove Thursday at 4 p.m. at Marcusen Park. If Austin wins this game, he will play again at 11 a.m. Friday at Marcusen. If he loses his first game, he will play at Seltz Field at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Post 1216 will attempt to cut through the 10-team double-elimination tournament with a wealth of pitching depth. Starters Nick Robertson, Brayden Bishop, Patyon Ransom and Isaiah Conway have all proven to be solid and Jake Truckenmiller, Jared Lillemon, Isaac Osgood and Sam Oehlfke are also capable of pitching key innings.
“I am delighted to play in front of our friends and family. It will be fun to have the best teams in the state coming to play here, ”said Ransom. “Having the throwing depth that we do is huge because we can count on our teammates when we enter the tournament.”
Post 1216’s sticks caught fire during the playoffs, but exceptional defense and a solid pitcher got the team through much of the summer. Lillemon stressed that a full roster and a commitment to improve were the foundations of the team’s success.
“Our depth came a bit by accident,” said Lillemon. “We’ve had so many sports camps, religious events and injuries and it made me play against people in different positions and we created a lot of depth. We are dangerous because we have so many children who have contributed throughout the year.
Lillemon’s shortstop son Jared is one of the team’s veteran leaders and has seen the team make great strides this season. He now expects four fun days of baseball, even though it’s the same week as the Mower County Fair.
“It’s going to be good to go to the fair to have something to do outside of games to keep the mind relaxed, but when we’re at the park we’ll be focusing on baseball,” Jared said. “We’ve been pushing all season and now we’re going to have fun. At the start of the year, he looked pretty ugly. We’ve all grown a lot and we’re playing really well now.
The tournament will take place over four days with matches taking place at Marcusen Park and Seltz Field at Riverland Community College. The state championship game is scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m. in Marcusen Park. Besides Austin, the state tournament field includes Stewartville, Maple Grove, Sartell, Grand Rapids, Mankato, Owatonna, Hermantown, Elk River and St. Cloud.
David hopes the team will grab the chance to play in the biggest tournament VFW baseball has to offer.
“I told them you can’t play too many state tournaments in your life, and this might be the only one they can play,” David said. “We want them to take advantage of it and embrace it. We expect good things, but we don’t know. The unexpected is what makes it fun and I think these kids will respond.
Austin last won the VFW title in 2009.