The Morris VFW Post 5039 stayed undefeated in the District 5 Tournament to win the championship game Monday in Benson.
With the win, Morris advances to the state tournament to be held on August 6-9 in St. Cloud. Post 5039 will take on the winner of a game between Bemidji and the host team on Thursday, Aug. 6 at 5 p.m. at Putz Field in the double elimination style tournament.
Morris advanced in the winners' bracket of the District 5 tournament with a 4-1 win over Madison on Friday in Benson.
Alex Erickson threw a complete game three-hitter, walking just two batters and striking out 14 in the win.
Ryan Beyer and Brady Valnes led the offense with two runs batted in each.
Morris was the visitor in this contest and they struck first when Tyler Hansen hit a one-out double and scored on a Beyer single. Eric Riley followed with a double to put runners on second and third, but Madison's fine pitcher Eric Paulson closed the door after that and Post 5039 had to settle for a 1-0 lead.
The score went to 2-0 in the third when Erickson led off with a single, stole second, and scored when Beyer hit a double off of the center field wall. In what would be a trend on the night Beyer would be stranded on third to end the inning.
Morris stranded seven runners in scoring position in the game against Paulson.
Madison scratched out an unearned run in the bottom of the third to draw to within 2-1. After striking out the first two hitters, Erickson walked his only two batters of the game consecutively. Lead-off hitter Sam Haas stole second and third and came around to score when the throw to third sailed into left field.
With the game still at 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Madison got their lead-off hitter Zach Moen on via a single. The next hitter, Haas, put down a perfect bunt which he beat out for a single and both runners advanced a base when the throw got away at first base. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Erickson protected the 2-1 lead by striking out the Madison number two, three, and four hitters in order to end the inning.
Post 5039 then came up with a big two-out rally in the top of the seventh as they added two insurance runs. Beyer walked and advanced to third when E. Riley reached on an error. E. Riley stole second and Valnes came up with a clutch single up the middle to plate both runs.
Erickson then set down Madison in order to close out the victory.
Alexandria I 0
Morris advanced to the District 5 championship game with a 2-0 win over Alexandria I on Sunday, also in Benson.
E. Riley pitched his third consecutive shutout, running his scoreless innings pitched streak to 23 in the victory.
Sunday's game quickly turned into a pitchers' dual as Riley battled against Alexandria's Jordan Hersch. Alexandria actually out hit Morris five to four, but Morris capitalized on scoring opportunities while Alexandria could not.
In a scoreless game in the bottom of the fourth inning, Erickson led off with a triple into the right field corner for Post 5039. After a nice play by the Alexandria third baseman led to a Morris out, Beyer coaxed out a walk and stole second. E. Riley then hit a short pop-up to right center field that the Alexandria second baseman caught going away from the infield. This allowed Erickson to score as Morris took the 1-0 lead.
In the top of the sixth inning a lead-off walk and a one-out double put runners on second and third for Alexandria. Morris then came up with the defensive play of the game as they turned a double play when the Alexandria hitter grounded out to Erickson at shortstop and first baseman Cole Riley threw out the runner at the plate as he was trying to score from third.
Morris was able to come up with an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Valnes hit a long double off of the center field fence with two outs and scored on a bad hop single off of the bat of C. Riley.
E. Riley got himself into a jam in the top of the seventh as he hit one batter and committed two errors to load the bases with two outs. The number two hitter in the Alexandria lineup then popped out to short to end the threat and to send Post 5039 into the championship round and Alexandria into the loser's bracket where they were defeated by Willmar 5-2.
Willmar I 4
Morris entered the game on Monday undefeated in the tournament, meaning that Willmar would have to defeat them twice in order to win the title. Morris made sure there would not be a second game, banging out 16 hits and scoring in every inning on the way to the title.
The strong hitting made up for a sloppy game in the field as Morris committed four errors and the Post 5039 pitchers walked seven Willmar hitters to keep the game close in the early going.
Hansen started on the mound and battled control problems for the two innings that he worked. Willmar I got on the board once in the top of the first when a misplay in the outfield led to an early run.
Morris gave an early indication of what was to come in the game in the bottom of the inning. Working against the Willmar I pitching ace, Nathaniel Swoyer, Post 5039 saw the first six hitters reach base as they scored four times. Swoyer had defeated Morris earlier in the year, throwing a two hitter and striking out 15.
Erickson led off the game by being hit by a pitch, one of five hit batters by Willmar pitchers. Hansen and Beyer then hit consecutive singles to plate the first run and E. Riley came through with his first of three triples on the night to score two more runs. Valnes then started what would be a great night for him at the plate with the first of his four RBI singles. C. Riley hit a line drive single as well, before Swoyer was able to work out of the inning.
Willmar scored twice more in the top of the second to pull to within 4-3, but Morris answered with four more runs in the bottom of the frame as they batted around for the second inning in a row. Hansen had a one-out single and he scored on a Beyer double. E. Riley was hit by a pitch and Valnes singled in another run. C. Riley walked to load the bases and then Mitch Kill hit a big two out, two run single to make the score 8-3.
Travis Rinkenberger who would pick up the win entered the game to pitch in the third and Willmar scored an unearned run to close the gap to 8-4. Morris again would answer as they scored twice more in the bottom half of the inning. E. Riley tripled in Beyer who had reached on a fielder's choice and Valnes again singled in E. Riley.
Rinkenberger worked a scoreless fourth inning and Morris scored again when Kill singled and Erickson and Hansen walked. Kill then scored on a wild pitch.
Erickson took over the pitching duties for Post 5039 in the top of the fifth and he picked up the save with three scoreless innings. E. Riley opened the Morris half of the fifth with his third triple and Valnes worked out a walk. C. Riley then singled in E. Riley to make the score 12-3. The final run of the game came in the bottom of the sixth as E. Riley again was hit by a pitch and he scored on Valnes fourth single of the game.