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Legion Baseball: Red Wing closes regular season strong

Post 54 pitcher Trey Eckstrom zones in for a fastball during Thursday's Legion baseball game against Prior Lake at the Ath. Eckstrom got the complete-game shutout in a 4-0 Red Wing victory1 / 3
Red Wing center fielder Preston Blaney slides into third base after connecting with an RBI triple in the third inning of Thursday's Legion baseball game against Prior Lake at the Red Wing Athletic Field.2 / 3
Red Wing shortstop Michael Bigelbach makes a toss to first base during Thursday's game against Prior Lake in Red Wing.3 / 3

Red Wing Legion Post 54 hasn’t faced much adversity as of late.

Winners of its last six games before Thursday’s game with Prior Lake, Red Wing averaged over eight runs a game during the streak. But holding just a 1-0 lead through five innings on Thursday, Post 54 had to keep their intensity intact to try and hold a slim victory.

With a lockdown performance on the mound by Trey Eckstrom, Red Wing had no problem closing the season on a high note. Eckstrom held Prior Lake to five hits and four walks, striking out four in a 4-0 victory in the regular-season finale at the Red Wing Athletic Field.

“Trey pitched great; the key for him was getting ahead in the count,” said Post 54 head coach Justin Plein.

Eckstrom added, “I was able to hit my spots, and I got to give credit to Ricky (Turcotte, Red Wing’s catcher) for putting me in the right spots.”

Through six innings, neither team could find much of an edge offensively. Prior Lake got a runner to third base just once in the game, while Post 54 left 11 total runners stranded on base. Red Wing managed to go ahead in the third inning on a two-out RBI triple by Preston Blaney that scored Michael Bigelbach.

Though Post 54 only had three hits in the first five innings, Eckstrom figured it was only a matter of time before his team turned it on offensively.

“I had faith that they’d come through,” Eckstrom said. “I knew we’d be able to get them in the end.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Josh Gadient, Red Wing’s No. 9 batter, led off with a walk. Then a single by Zach Lang and an Eckstrom walk loaded the bases for the No. 3 hitter, Bigelbach. Down  0-2 in the count, Bigelbach launched the ball over Prior Lake’s right fielder, scoring Gadient and Lang. Two batters later, Eckstrom scored on a sacrifice fly by Turcotte to give Post 54 a 4-0 advantage.

“We had chances early on, but we couldn’t get those two-out hits early in the game,” Plein said. “Then they had Bigs down 0-2 and he comes through with a huge hit for us.”

Needing just three more outs, Plein’s message was simple: keep the momentum rolling.

“We talked before the seventh inning and told the team, ‘Don’t let up,’” Plein said. “We kind of go through the motions at times, but our guys did a good job of closing this one out.”

Eckstrom struck out two of the first three batters, and third baseman Ryan Jonas snagged a liner by Prior Lake’s Johnny Houston to complete the shutout.

“I was relying on my curve a lot tonight, and my two-seam fastball was really good,” Eckstrom said.

Finishing with five total hits, Post 54 was led offensively by Bigelbach, who was 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. Red Wing’s defense behind Eckstrom was stellar, finishing the game without an error, compared to three fielding gaffes by Prior Lake.

“Trey has been a strikeout pitcher for us for most of the year, but Prior Lake put the ball in play a lot tonight and our defense was great,” Plein said. “Prior Lake’s a good team we’ll probably see again in the playoffs.”

Ending the regular season on a seven-game win streak, Post 54 (14-8) opens the Sub-State 6 playoffs next week. Seedings will be announced on Sunday.

Wednesday: Red Wing 10, Hastings 5

Red Wing’s offense cranked out eight runs on nine hits in the bottom of the fourth inning, breezing past Hastings for a 10-5 victory Wednesday at the Ath.

During the fourth, Cam Voigt and Austin Strand each belted two-run singles that put Post 54 firmly in control.

Six Red Wing players – Michael Bigelbach, Ricky Turcotte, Voigt, Gunnar Tubbs, Cody Leitner and Preston Blaney – finished with two hits. Bigelbach was 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run scored, and Voigt was 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run. Leitner added two runs, and Strand drove in two runs and scored a pair of runs.

As a team, Post 54 finished with 15 hits.

Leitner picked up the win in relief, striking out five and holding Hastings to four hits, one walk and one unearned run in five innings. 

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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