Upper Midwest Classic starts tonight
NEW ULM – The 2014 Upper Midwest Classic Legion Classic Baseball Tournament begins Thursday and Friday at both Johnson and Mueller Parks along with baseball parks in Searles and Essig.
Eighteen American Legion baseball teams from Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Nevada will play in the 26th UMC and the 35th legion baseball tournament in New Ulm.
The first nine years the tournament was known as the Firecracker.
Teams participating are Pool A – New Ulm Gold, Post 307 from Renner (S.D.), Prior Lake, Chaska and Plover, Wis.
Pool B teams are Brandon Valley, South Dakota, Burnsville, Las Vegas, Apple Valley and Kenyon.
Pool C squads are Sioux Falls West, Eastview, Roseville and Lakeville South with Pool D teams from New Ulm Blue, Sleepy Eye, Bloomington and Creighton Prep of Nebraska.
Games will begin Thursday night at Johnson Park with Creighton taking on New Ulm Blue at 6 p.m. followed by New Ulm Gold meeting Post 307 from Renner.
Games then begin at 10 a.m. on Friday at Johnson Park and 10:30 at Mueller, Essig and Searles parks.
The pool play title games will be at 9 a.m. and noon with the championship game at 2:30 on Sunday.
Perhaps the team that brings the most interest to the tournament are the Las Vegas Aces coached by former New Ulmite Paul Buboltz.
Las Vegas is 27-5 and Buboltz said it is the best team that he has had since 2010.
“We have combined with a different school,” Buboltz said. “I got a job at Desert Oasis and we combined with Sierra Vista High School so we have kids from two different schools on this team. I think that this team has a chance to win the [Nevada] state tournament.
“The thing that we are lacking is pitching. Our defense and hitting have been pretty good [a .353 team batting average]. We are lacking that top of the rotation ace. We have strong No. 2 pitchers but not a strong No. 1.”
Lukas Diehm and A.L. Landis are the Aces’ top two pitchers each having a 5-0 Mark Diehm has an ERA of 1.21 with Landis at 4.30. Their team ERA is 2.81.
“Last year we finished third in the Nevada state tournament and this team is better than last year,” Buboltz said.
Bubba Almaguer, a right-fielder for the Aces, will be attending Western Arizona next season with Alex Tafesh going to junior college in Las Vegas.
Jordyn Compehos leads the Aces with a .471 batting average with Keanu Van Kuren at .417 and Chase Adams hitting .410. Alex Tafesh is the fourth player hitting over .400 at .407.
The Aces are in the midst of a road trip from July 1 to July 16.
“We are flying out on the first and last weekend we went to Utah for a tournament. We play in the range of 65 games before we play in the state tournament,” Buboltz said.
Buboltz said that Las Vegas has not been back to New Ulm for four years.
“But we want to give these kids the experience of small-town baseball that I grew up playing,” Buboltz said. “That is a good experience for them.
“I think that the kids will enjoy playing at Johnson Park. I always liked playing there and I will be able to see family and friends again.”
SIOUX FALLS WEST is 17-12 and is led offensively by Seth Bioerdal’s .448 batting average and his .575 slugging percentage. Connor Grove is hitting .362 and Alex Lineman at .346.
West is hitting .311 as a team.
Stuart Baruth’s is Post 15’s top pitcher with a 4-0 mark and a 1.19 ERA. He has 35 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.
APPLE VALLEY enters with a 9-8 marked are led by Brady Casperson’s .404 batting average. Jake Smith is second with a .377 batting average.
Cole Johnson and Henry Luetje each have two pitching wins. Johnson’s ERA is 4.67 while Luetje at 1.61. They hit .311 as as a team and have a team ERA of 2.80.
SLEEPY EYE comes in fresh off a win against New Ulm Blue and is now 2-4. Two of Sleepy Eye’s losses have come by one run.
Leading Post 7 is Matt Berkner, who carries a .400 batting average into the tournament. Jay Helget is at .375 with Brandon Helget batting .333.
Sleepy Eye has a team ERA of 3.99 led by Mike Hirsch who has a 0.00 ERA. Jake Mielke is at 1.40.
KENYON heads west to New Ulm with a 10-4 mark. Last year Kenyon went 3-1 in the Classic. This year the team is led by Drew Sathrum, who is hitting .429, and Alex Roosen, who comes in hitting .361. Jace Clawiter is at .355 entering the tourney.
Sathrun also leads the Kenyon pitching staff with a 3-0 mark and a 0.86 ERA. Roosen sports a 2-1 mark along with a 0.78 ERA. The team ERA is 2.34.
Last year Kenyon finished 25-10. Kenyon beat Eden Prairie in the first game of their sub-section but lost to them in the second game.
CHASKA Post 57 comes in at 6-7 and is led by Justin Arnold in hitting with a .368 average. Catcher Carter Schmidt is hitting .364 and leads the team in RBIs with eight.
Derek Annett is the top pitcher at 3-0 and a 2.19 ERA. Tony Kjolsing will be playing college baseball at South Dakota State next year with pitcher will be playing baseball at the University of Nebraska-Omaha next year.
PLOVER WISCONSIN comes in with an 8-3 record after going 39-10 last year and finishing second in the Wisconsin State Tournament and also finishing fourth in the Great Lakes Regional Legion Tournament in Terre Haute, Indiana and return most of the players from that team. Coach Wayne Stankey said that his team does not have a lot of games in this year because their high school season ran late. He said that his team’s strength is pitching wiht a deep offensive line-up.