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Legion Baseball: Willmar books another state trip – West Central Tribune

BUFFALO — Willmar’s Saturday began with a trip to the Mall of America and ended with another trip set for the Division I State American Legion Baseball Tournament.

Post 167 won its second straight Sub-State 15 championship after beating Buffalo 3-2 at Bentfield Mills Park.

Willmar qualified for the state tournament for the 21st time in team history. The DI State Tournament takes place Thursday-Sunday mostly in Burnsville. Post 167 opens pool play with two games Thursday in Prior Lake: vs. the Sub-State 9 champs at 10 am and vs. Farmington at 3 pm Pool play concludes against Sartell at 3 pm Friday in Burnsville. The top two teams in each pool advance to the single-elimination championship bracket on Saturday and Sunday.

“We had high expectations with the club and we’ve been rated high all year, and rightfully so,” said Post 167 head coach Doug Ruter. “It’s just a good group and they’re baseball players. They love playing the game and it’s been fun.”

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Willmar Post 167 starting pitcher Sam Etterman watches a throw approach home plate during the DI Sub-State Legion baseball championship against Buffalo on Saturday, July 24, 2022 at Bentfield Mills Park in Buffalo.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Originally scheduled to play at 1:30 pm, thunderstorms across the area forced the championship game back six hours. With time to kill, Willmar’s players and coaches made the trek to the largest mall in the US

“We were able to bond as a team. We walked around and went to shops,” said Cayden Hansen. “Just do some fun stuff while we had some time off.”

“We probably walked way too much before a game,” Sam Etterman admitted, “but it was good to hang out with the team.”

Buffalo played its way into the Sub-State championship with a 5-2 victory over Hutchinson and was hoping to carry that momentum into its matchup against Post 167.

Willmar’s pitchers — Etterman and Hansen — had other ideas.

Etterman started the game and gave up one hit over the first five innings. He finished with 10 strikeouts with four hits and three walks allowed.

“I was feeling it on the mound tonight, which was great,” Etterman said. “I knew Buffalo was a great hitting team coming into the game, so I wanted to keep it mixed up. I talked to Dylan (Arndorfer, Willmar’s catcher) and I told him, let’s work the outside zone and mix in the curveball a lot in there and that’s what we did. The umpire was giving it to me so I kept it going.”

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Willmar Post 167’s Cayden Hansen connects with a pitch during the DI Sub-State Legion baseball championship against Buffalo on Saturday, July 24, 2022 at Bentfield Mills Park in Buffalo.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

The run support for Etterman came early on. In the bottom of the first, Hunter Magnuson hit a two-out double to the left-center gap that allowed Ian Koosman to score from first base. In the second, Arndorfer drew a leadoff walk. After a wild pitch and a balk put him on third, he scored on a Brandt Sunder infield single that went off the pitcher’s glove.

Etterman helped his own cause in the bottom of the fifth, scoring on a Magunson single to make it 3-0. Magnuson finished 2-for-3. Sunder was 2-for-2.

“You can’t ask for anything more as a pitcher than when your team gives you three runs,” Etterman said. “Pitching with the lead is always better.”

Post 167 needed every one of those runs after Buffalo broke through in the sixth. With two outs and runners on second and third, Jack Henry hit a pop-up to left field that fell between three Willmar fielders. That allowed both runs to come in and make it a one-run game.

Clinging to the lead, Hansen came in to shut the door. He started with two straight strikeouts on Logan LaPlante and Zach Salonek. Caleb Breuer drew a walk, putting No. 3 hitter Justin Johnson into the batter’s box. But Hansen got Johnson to ground out to Koosman at shortstop for the final out.

“I got the call and I knew I had to go and pound strikes and get guys out,” Hansen said.

He added, “We took care of business tonight and now we got to move forward and get ready for the state tournament.

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Willmar Post 167 catcher Dylan Arndorfer looks in a pitch during the DI Sub-State Legion baseball championship against Buffalo on Saturday, July 24, 2022 at Bentfield Mills Park in Buffalo.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Sub-State 15 championship

Buffalo 000 002 0-2 4 1
Willmar 110 010 x-3 6 1
Hitting – Buffalo: Zach Salonek 1-4 r, Justin Johnson 1-4 r, Carson Schwartz 1-2 bb, Jack Henry 1-3 rbi-2 … Willmar: Ian Koosman 1-3 r, Hunter Magnuson 2-3 2b rbi-2, Jason Malmgren 1-2 bb, Brandt Sunder 2-2 rbi, Sam Etterman 0-3 r, Dylan Arndorfer 0-2 r bb
Pitching (ip-hr-er-bb-so) – Buffalo: Caleb Johnson (L) 4-5-2-1-2-8, Brock Mutterer 2-1-1-0-0-4 … Willmar: Etterman (W) 6-4-2-2-3-10, Cayden Hansen (Sv) 1-0-0-0-1-2

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