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Successful VFW season ends at District 5

A very successful season for the Morris VFW Post 5039 baseball team came to an end two games short of a state tournament berth with two losses in the District 5 Tournament in Spicer Sunday.

Morris 4

Willmar I 1

Morris advanced in the District 5 tournament with a 4-1 win over Willmar I on Saturday, July 26 in Spicer.

Eric Riley threw a complete game in the win over Willmar I, giving up just five hits with one walk and three strikeouts.

"Morris played a great defensive game behind Riley, committing just two errors and making several nice plays," said coach Gary Hansen. "The infield of first baseman Jon Jallo, second baseman Ethan Bruer, shortstop Alex Erickson, and third baseman Brady Valnes all made fine plays to keep Willmar off of the scoreboard. Erickson handled seven chances in the game without an error."

Morris got on the scoreboard in the first when Erickson led off with a double, went to third on a fly out off of the bat of Tyler Hansen, and scored when Willmar made an error on a ground ball by Ryan Beyer.

Morris added to the lead in the second when Riley reached on an error, stole second, and scored on a Valnes single. 

Willmar scored an unearned run in the top of the fifth to close the gap to 2-1 and had the tying run on third, but Valnes made the play on a slow chopper down the line to retire the side and preserve the lead for Morris.

Post 5039 then regained a more comfortable lead with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Valnes led off with a long double to left and went to third when the Willmar pitcher somehow got his glove on a hard line drive off of the bat of Jon Jallo. He recovered to get Jallo at first for the initial out of the inning. Mitch Kill then had the big hit of the game when he lined a single to right to score Valnes. Erickson added an insurance run when he drove in Kill with a two-out double to right center. 

That would close the scoring as Morris held on for the 4-1 win.

Alexandria I 9

Morris 8

Alexandria I handed Morris a heartbreaking 9-8 defeat in nine innings in tournament play on Sunday.

"Both teams had several chances to pull out the win, and Morris put up a great battle, scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth and stranding the tying run on third after Alex I had taken a 9-6 lead in the top of the inning," said Hansen.

Travis Rinkenberger started on the mound for Morris and Alexandria I jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when the leadoff hitter doubled and came around on a single.

Morris tied the score in the bottom of the inning when Erickson led off with a single and scored on a two-out double off of the bat of Beyer.

Alex I scored two more times in the top of the second, but Morris answered right back with two runs. Valnes led off with a single and Jallo walked. After Alex I recorded two outs, Erickson hit a long triple into the right center field gap to plate both runs as Jallo made a slide to avoid the tag at home.

After holding Alex I scoreless in the third, Morris took its first lead of the game when Hansen led off the bottom of the third with a double, advanced to third on an error, and scored on a sacrifice fly to right off of the bat of Eric Riley.

Erickson replaced Rinkenberger on the mound to start the fourth inning and Alex I promptly tied the game with an unearned run.

Alexandria I took the lead in the fifth when after the first two hitters were retired, an infield pop up dropped for a hit, Morris committed another error, and a runner reached after striking out on a wild pitch to load the bases. The next hitter singled to plate one run, but Post 5039 center fielder Hansen threw out a potential run at the plate to keep the score at 5-4 in favor of Alex I.

The Alexandria team added another run in the top of the sixth with three straight singles with two outs.

Morris did not give in as they staged a rally in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the score. Nate Gibson worked out a leadoff walk and Rinkenberger singled him to second. Erickson reached on a fielder's choice that retired Rinkenberger and stole second to put runners on second and third. Gibson scored on a wild pitch and then with Erickson on third, Tanner Berning brought him in with a fielder's choice grounder.

Both teams were then held scoreless in the seventh and eighth innings. Alex I threatened in the eighth with runners on first and third and just one out, but Morris came up with a double play to end the inning.

Morris mounted a threat in the bottom of the inning with runners on first and second and one out, but the Alex I third baseman made consecutive plays to end the inning. 

In the top of the ninth the defensive woes for Morris continued when after a lead off double, a bunt attempt was thrown away to plate one run. After a strikeout, a fielder's choice grounder where no outs were recorded, and a past ball led to two more runs scoring as Alex I took a seemingly comfortable 9-6 lead.

Morris would not go quietly as Riley hit a one-out single and Valnes hit a hard shot to third that got by the third baseman, putting runners on second and third.  A walk to Jallo loaded the bases and Evan Schultz entered as a pinch runner for Jallo. A wild pitch scored the first run and a ground out off of the bat of Gibson scored the second run and advanced Schultz to third. Rinkenberger then hit a long fly ball to the warning track in left center field that the center fielder ran down to end the game.

Willmar I 12

Morris 2

A 12-2 loss to Willmar I on Sunday ended the VFW's hopes of a state tournament berth.

"Playing their second game of the day, Morris came out flat and was dominated by a Willmar team that they had defeated twice earlier in the year," said Hansen. "Willmar I played a very fine game taking away numerous hits from the Morris team with fine defensive plays, including four diving stops by their second baseman.

"In the game against Willmar, basically everything that could go wrong did as seemingly every ball that Willmar hit found a hole while everything Morris hit was right at a Willmar defender."

Willmar I scored twice in the first and then added five more in the second off of Morris starter Hansen. Hansen settled down after the rough start to throw two scoreless innings before Ethan Bruer took over on the mound. Bruer gave up five runs in his three innings of work. 

Post 5039 scratched out single runs in the third and fourth innings, and had base runners on in every inning except the first, but they could never get the big hit when needed, stranding eight runners on base in the game.

In the third, Rinkenberger hit a one-out single and scored on a Berning triple. The second run of the game came in the fourth when Beyer singled, went to third on an Eric Riley single, and scored on a wild pitch.