BRAINERD — A quick exit from the state tournament belied what was an outstanding season for the Owatonna VFW baseball team.
Playing most of the summer as a pair of separate teams based on class level, the program finished with a strong 23-11 overall record, which includes a pair of losses on Thursday in Brainerd. The team won several games at the annual Battle of Omaha tournament and finished second to Austin at the region competition.
At state, Post 3723 ran into a pair of talented opponents and stayed close until the bitter end, but dropped both contests against Forest Lake and Spring Lake Park, 5-4.
In the opening game, Owatonna leveled the score 2-2 with a run in the top of the fifth before Forest Lake answered and pulled ahead 5-2 heading into the final inning.
Four of the first five batters reached base to start the seventh for Owatonna as Brayden Truelson drew Post 3723 within 5-3 on a groundout. With the bases loaded, Caleb Vereide scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by Gavin Rein before the comeback was halted one batter later on a pop fly to centerfield.
Payton Beyer finished 3-for-4 with a triple and paced Owatonna’s 9-hit attack. Connor Budach doubled and ended with two hits and Truelson drove in a team-high two runs.
Truelson also pitched all six innings and allowed eight hits and four earned-runs. He struck out one and walked one.
In the do-or-die second game, Owatonna led 3-1 after three frames before Spring Lake Park pulled ahead with four combined runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
Post 3723 made things interesting and put the potential game-winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh before things were ended on a strikeout. The lone run in Owatonna’s final at-bat came on a wild pitch.
Post 3723 out-hit Spring Lake Park, 12-6, but committed a pair of costly errors that led to an unearned run in the second inning.
Matt Seykora started on the mound and lasted five innings. he struck out five, walked six and allowed five runs (four earned). Rein pitched the sixth and seventh and did not allow a run.
Seykora, Beyer, Truelson and Vereide each finished with a pair of hits for Owatonna. Beyer led the team with a double and two RBIs. He also stole one base and scored one run.
Owatonna combined for five errors in two games. It’s opponents combined for one…Owatonna out-hit Forest Lake and Spring Lake Park a combined 21-14…Post 3723 drew just three walks in 14 innings…Defending state champion, Chaska, defeated host Brainerd and Austin before losing to Montrose (Buffalo) in the championship semifinals.
Forest Lake 5, Owatonna 4
OWA 100 010 2—4 9 3
FL 101 021 x—5 8 1
Owatonna leading hitters: Payton Beyer 3-4 (3B, RBI), Gavin Rein 1-3, Connor Budach 2-4 (2B)
Owatonna pitching: Brayden Truelson, L (6IP, 8H, 5R, 4ER, 1K, 1BB)
Spring Lake Park 5, Owatonna 4
SLP 010 130 0—5 6 0
OWA 030 000 1—4 12 2
Owatonna leading hitters: Beyer 2-4 (2B), Truelson 2-4, Matt Seykora 2-4, Caleb Vereide 2-3, Jacob Meiners 1-3 (2B)
Owatonna pitching: Matt Seykora, L (5IP, 5H, 5R, 4ER, 5K, 6BB), Gavin Rein (2IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 2K, 1BB)