When Josh Spitzack took control of the Northfield Legion Post 84 baseball team before last summer, he wanted to make sure to continue the tradition.
Every other year, former coach Chris Graupmann had taken the River Rats to compete at the Battle of Omaha, so last week Spitzack bussed the team down to Omaha for the tournament, which coincides with the College World Series.
Northfield finished 2-2 after winning twice Thursday but losing twice Sunday, and an originally guaranteed fifth game was canceled due to inclement weather.
“It’s just a fun experience for them to be together for a few days, whether it’s hanging out at the hotel or at the College World Series game,” Spitzack said. “I know the kids were tired since they played two games that day, but it was still a cool experience for them to see that stadium and see the atmosphere of college baseball.”
After beating Skutt Catholic 7-0 and the Kansas Curve 9-4 on Thursday afternoon, the River Rats watched Louisville come back to beat Mississippi State 4-3 on Thursday night with Drew Campbell’s walk-off single.
Then, Saturday, Northfield lost 5-1 to Moorhead and fell 3-1 to Waverly.
In the first Thursday win, soon-to-be senior Nick Wagner tossed seven innings while allowing only three hits and no runs, while graduated senior Michael Ims collected four hits and drove in a pair of runs. In the second win Thursday, graduated senior Luke Johnson hurled a complete game, allowed four runs, five hits and struck out six. Soon-to-be senior Joey Glampe picked up a pair of hits and drove in three.
In the pair of Saturday losses, soon-to-be junior Gunnar Benson tossed five innings while allowing five runs, before graduated senior Joe Malecha hurled a pair of scoreless relief innings in the first defeat, before soon-to-be senior Nathaniel Lanthier started the second game and lasted five innings while surrendering three runs, before coming junior Jadyn McGovern completed a scoreless inning of relief.
The bats were quieter Saturday, accounting for two runs in two games after pushing across 16 runs in two games Thursday.
“We went down to Omaha knowing that we’ve got a good pitching staff, and we played good defense down there, so we knew that we’re going to be in most games,” Spitzack said. “The thing for us right now is confidence with hitting, and one day down there we hit really well and the next day we didn’t. We just need to realize that even if we’re not hitting, we’re going to be in these games. We talked about executing in certain situations, and it doesn’t always have to be a hit. It might just be a sac fly or a groundball to get us runs when we can. The big thing is just confidence and playing with confidence and with energy.”