The Holmen High School American Legion team celebrates their Class AA State Championship over Antigo last Sunday. The Vikings won 6-2.

The Holmen Vikings baseball team was heartbroken after the spring season. It was a team expected to do real damage, but for various reasons had a middling season.

When legion ball started this summer, they expected more of themselves and it showed in the biggest way last Sunday. The Vikings (25-7) are champs after clinching the Class AA state championship.

“We didn’t have the spring we wanted,” said Holmen head coach Charlie Alexander. “This team didn’t want to end the year known for their potential, they wanted to end the year by showing that they are one of the top teams in the state and they did that by winning.”

The tournament started last Wednesday when the Vikings played Merrill High School in a 4-3 win. They followed it up with wins over River Falls and Antigo to secure a berth in the championship game against previous opponent Antigo High School.

Holmen scored early and often, taking a 5-0 lead into the fifth, to secure the championship. They never trailed in the game and allowed just five hits in the game. First baseman Austin Braund and center fielder Drew Becker led the Vikings offense. Braund drove in Holmen’s first run while Becker went 3-for-3 for the Vikings.

“Our pitching was amazing and the guys were getting ahead in the count early and often. Our defense followed that up by turning at least one double play every game and we ran the bases extremely well thanks to all of the speed on this team,” Alexander said.

The championship was one that won’t soon be forgotten by the team. Braund said the feeling was hard to describe.

“Winning the state title is surreal and it still doesn’t feel real. There’s no other way you would want to go out,” he said.

Becker, a senior, said the team had unfinished business.

“Our spring season didn’t really go as planned and we all knew we had the potential and talent to go somewhere and now that we finally did it it’s just a great feeling for all of us,” he said.

Braund called it a “chip on the shoulder”.

“Our coaches preached the whole summer that we could do this and we all bought in,” Braund said. “We didn’t have the spring season we wanted so we worked really hard to get to this point.”

Winning the state tournament qualified them for the Central Plains Regional in North Dakota that will feature state champion teams from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota. West Salem High School will also be at the regional tournament that began Wednesday and runs through Sunday. The winner will advance to the national tournament in Shelby, North Carolina.

The guys are excited to show those teams what they’ve got.

“Our goal coming in was to win state,” said Becker. “Now that we accomplished that we have a new goal and we want to go (to North Dakota) and do our best.”

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Benjamin Pierce is a news reporter for the River Valley Media Group working for three weekly newspapers that cover Bangor, Onalaska, Holmen, and West Salem in the dairy state. He also covers La Crescent in Minnesota and can be reached at 608-791-8311.

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