The Viroqua American Legion baseball team represented itself well at the Ely (Minn.) Tournament, last weekend, winning all four games in its pool of play.
Post 138 (29-10 overall) won some close games at Ely, which is two hours north of Duluth (Minn.) and is a seven-hour road trip, one-way, from Viroqua.
"We had a good weekend and, from what we heard, after our game on Sunday they got rain, so we beat the weather, too," Viroqua coach Pete Swanson said. "It rained when we were on the bus all the way back into Wisconsin. Then the good weather returned."
Viroqua and Wahpeton, N.D., (21-6) were division title winners at the Ely Tournament, which is also known as Sir G's Midsummer Classic.
Viroqua went 5-1 last week, its only loss being a 14-13 nail-biter to the La Crosse Northstars Class AA Legion squad, Monday, July 8. Viroqua defeated Kenyon (Minn.), 5-2, on Sunday at Ely; defeated Cloquet (Minn.), 3-2, and Deer River (Minn.), 6-3, on Saturday at Ely; defeated Duluth Lakeview (Minn.), 8-0, on Friday at Ely; and defeated the La Crosse Raiders, 10-5, at the Park Bowl, last Thursday.
Kenyon, Minn. 2
Dave Crandall keyed Viroqua's offense against Kenyon with a pair of RBI doubles.
Dustin Stalsberg, meanwhile, tossed a five-hitter against Kenyon, striking out three and walking three.
"Dustin scattered five hits and we hit the ball when we needed it," Swanson said. "It was a good game. We had a lot of hits."
Brandon Mickelson was 3-for-4 to lead Viroqua at the plate while Crandall was 2-for-3, Tyler Trautsch was 2-for-4 and Mitch Stalsberg hit a double.
Cloquet, Minn. 2
Mason Joholski doubled in the winning run for Post 138 in the fifth inning against Cloquet.
Viroqua also had some late-game defensive heroics that saved the "W." Joey Huber came up with a skillful double play in the fifth inning when Kenyon had runners in scoring position.
Crandall started the game on the mound for Viroqua and was relieved by Trautsch, who struck out four in the last two innings and was credited with the victory.
"Joey Huber made a great play to get us out of an inning without them scoring a run," Swanson said.
Swanson said Trautsch came to the mound with Kenyon runners on second and third with no outs in the fifth inning. Some skillful play-calling, including walking Kenyon's clean-up hitter, and then Huber's defensive play helped secure the win.
Crandall and Joholski were each 2-for-3 at the plate and each doubled. Trautsch homered in the game.
Deer River, Minn. 3
Viroqua used a three-run sixth inning to break a 3-3 tie and defeat Deer River in their first game on Saturday.
Zach Trautsch started the rally as he homered to give Viroqua a one-run lead. Then with Joholski and Bentz on base, Tyler Gabrielson laid down a squeeze bunt. While Deer River tried to get Gabrielson out at first, Post 138 had its runners on the move as soon as the pitch was made.
"We had sent both the runners and they were going as he laid down the bunt," Swanson said. "They both scored."
Bentz pitched a five-hitter against Deer River, striking out three and walking three in the complete-game victory.
Tyler Trautsch hit two doubles and knocked in two runs. Dalton Tryggestad doubled. Viroqua's runs in the sixth were all earned with Zach Trautsch's homer and Gabrielson's two RBIs on the bunt.
Viroqua 8, Duluth Lakeview, Minn. 0
Swanson said Viroqua's toughest competition of the Ely Tournament on paper heading in was Duluth Lakeview.
So, Post 138 went with its ace, Mitch Stalsberg, on the mound.
Stalsberg did not disappoint as he threw a one hitter, striking out 13 and walking just one.
Viroqua was solid on offense early, scoring six runs in the second. A key, two-RBI, bases-loaded single by Zach Trautsch was the blow that "broke the game open" for Post 138 in the second inning, Swanson said.
Mitch Stalsberg helped himself out at the plate as he went 2-for-4. Crandall doubled in the game for Viroqua. Post 138 also benefited from three Duluth errors. Viroqua, meanwhile, played error-free baseball.
La Crosse Raiders 5
Mitch Stalsberg hit a grand slam home run in the second inning as Viroqua took an early 7-0 lead by the third inning and never looked back in a game at the Park Bowl.
Abe Beckstrand pitched into the sixth inning for Viroqua "and really did a nice job for us," Swanson said. Beckstrand got the win with seven strikeouts and just two walks.
A Joey Huber double, prior to Stalsberg's big homer was another factor in getting Post 138 up early.
Tyler Trautsch was 2-for-2 with a double, Crandall was 2-for-4, Huber was 2-for-3 with a double and Bentz had a double as Viroqua collected 10 hits in the game.
Mickelson came in to pitch in relief of Beckstrand in the sixth inning to help secure the win.
La Crosse Northstars 14, Viroqua 13 (8)
Viroqua was in a bit of a pickle on Monday, July 8, facing the Class AA Northstars in La Crosse right after a weekend at the Baraboo Tournament.
"We used all of our pitchers at Baraboo, so we were really hoping to slug our way through this game," Swanson said.
It almost worked as Viroqua tallied 17 hits in an extra-innings game that saw the Northstars eke out the victory by one run.
Tryggestad, Beckstrand and Mickelson all took turns on the mound for Viroqua.
Post 138's offense was solid. Tyler Trautsch hit two home runs and was 5-for-5 with four RBI. Mickelson was 3-for-5 and Beckstrand was 2-for-5.
After the eight-inning game, not enough time was left for a full contest, so the Northstars and Post 138 scrimmaged over three innings.
"We basically let the kids do whatever they wanted and that was it," Swanson said.
Huber pitched for Viroqua. Mitch Stalsberg hit a homer in the scrimmage for Post 138.
Swanson said that at this point in the season, Viroqua has done plenty of development as a team, now it is just a matter of keeping sharp. To that end, Post 138 will play single games hosting De Soto, Wednesday, July 17; at Sparta, Thursday (today); at Black River Falls, Saturday, at noon; and at Tomah, Sunday.
As of Monday, Viroqua was tied for second in the Jim Mason division of the La Crosse Area American Legion standings. Team records were: La Crescent, 9-1 (can clinch at least a tie for the title with a win at the La Crosse Juniors, Thursday); Viroqua, 7-2; Westby, 7-2; La Crosse Northstars, 7-3; Prairie du Chien, 4-3; La Crosse A's, 5-4; La Crosse Juniors, 3-7; North Crawford, 3-7; Bi-State, 2-5; and Genoa-De Soto-Stoddard, 2-7.
Prairie du Chien hosts this year's Class A Regional tournament starting on July 24. Viroqua hosts the Class A State tournament starting Wednesday, July 31. It will mark the fifth time Viroqua has hosted the Class A state tournament. Post 138 has played in the state tournament a record 17 times, earning three state titles and placing second eight times, which is the best of any team in Class A in Wisconsin.