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Legion Baseball: Post 54 survives slugfest with East Ridge

Red Wing Legion Post 54 celebrates as Austin Strand slides into home plate for a walk-off victory Thursday against East Ridge at Memorial Park in Dundas, Minn. Strand scored on a double by Zach Lang in the bottom of the ninth inning for an 11-10 win. (Republican Eagle photo by Chris Harrell)1 / 3
Red Wing's Michael Bigelbach connects for a base hit during Thursday's 11-10 victory over East Ridge at Memorial Park. Bigelbach finished 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. (Republican Eagle photo by Chris Harrell)2 / 3
Preston Blaney delivers a pitch for Red Wing in Thursday's 11-10 victory over East Ridge. (Republican Eagle photo by Chris Harrell)3 / 3

DUNDAS, Minn. – Not often does a team give up 22 hits and survive.

But on Thursday during the Sub-State 6 Legion baseball tournament, Red Wing recovered from a 9-2 deficit to tally a come-from-behind walk-off 11-10 victory against East Ridge at Memorial Park.

“That’s the easy spot right there where we could have folded,” Red Wing head coach Justin Plein. “But they battled back, they didn’t want to be done. We talked about going into playoffs that it could be some of these kids’ last chance to play baseball so let’s extend it as long as we can.”

The game did not lack for offense as the teams combined for 40 hits in the nearly three-hour contest before Zach Lang kept Red Wing from elimination with a double to score Austin Strand from first base with help from a hit-and-run call by Plein.

“I was thinking about it the inning before if I got up I would have a chance to hopefully win the game for us,” Lang said. “I was just trying to put the ball in play.”

Lang finished 2-for-6 with two doubles and three RBI in the win. Dixon Irwin was 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored while Michael Bigelbach went 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored for Post 54 (15-9). Trey Eckstrom picked up the victory in one inning on the mound and was 2-for-4 with two runs scored at the plate.

Parker Moquist led East Ridge, going 4-for-4 with two RBI, and Sam Cobbs was 3-for-6 but picked up the loss in 3 1/3 innings on the mound.

Red Wing took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning as Dixon Irwin led off with a single, advanced to third on a single and scored on a wild pitch.

East Ridge came back with four runs in the top of the fourth inning, taking advantage of an injury to Post 54’s starting pitcher Michael Bigelbach. Bigelbach injured his shoulder covering a bunt but stayed in the game to play first base. Preston Blaney came in to pitch and allowed two inherited runners to score to give East Ridge a 4-1 lead.

“He said it really hurt and could tell it was bugging him,” Plein said of Bigelbach. “He said he couldn’t do short(stop) but he wanted to keep hitting and we wanted his bat in the lineup so we found a way at first.”

Irwin scored again in the bottom of the fourth inning as Red Wing pulled within 4-2 without a hit in the frame.

Then, East Ridge broke out for five runs on six hits and one error by Post 54 to take a 9-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning.

With all the momentum, a dropped fly ball in center field by East Ridge turned the tide for Red Wing in the sixth inning, leading to five runs as Post 54 pulled within two runs.

“I think that was the changing point,” Plein said. “It gives us the momentum getting to the top of the order there with guys on first and second, we knew if could get back to the top, we had a good chance.”

East Ridge pitcher Josh Stuempert kept Post 54 to two runs in the first five innings, but in the sixth inning, Red Wing knocked him out of the game with a patient approach at the plate.  

“Their starter threw all right early on,” Plein said. “We knew if we could get to their bullpen, we had a good chance; take some pitches, make him work a little bit and get to the bullpen, we’d be good to go.”

East Ridge went up 10-7 in the eighth inning as David Wermers singled with one out, moved to second on a single by Michael Hietpas and came home on an RBI single by Zach Wahl.

Again, Post 54 fought back with its first five hitters of the eighth inning picking up base hits, including a two-RBI single by pinch-hitter Cam Voigt to tie the game at 10-10.

Eckstrom kept East Ridge to just one hit in the ninth inning, allowing Red Wing an opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Strand led off with an infield single and Lang ripped a line drive down the left-field line for the game winner.

“It’s better than any other feeling I’ve had playing,” Lang said. “The left fielder was playing left-center so he gave me the line. Might as well take advantage of it.”

Post 54 will attempt to keep its season alive Friday against the loser of Lakeville North and Eagan at noon in Dundas.

“It’s just a confidence booster and motivation to keep trying to win games and move on,” Lang said.

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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