The Westphal Armstrong American Legion baseball team hoped that s strong showing against St. Michael Blue July 6 would help catapult the team into success at the Gopher Classic American Legion tournament’s pool play round July 7-9.
Following a 6-4 loss to Fridley to open the week, Westphal Armstrong head coach Jimmer Nunn hoped to see his team gain some confidence prior to leaving for the Gopher Classic.
The Falcons got off to an early lead against St. Michael Blue before walking away with a 7-2 victory.
“I was really impressed today, St. Michael-Albertville is a really good team and we have been making adjustments all season,” Nunn said. “Last week we had left 20 men on base in two games and today we had a lot of situations where we played small ball and scored six runs, which is big for us.”
The key to the Falcons’ success? A deeper understanding of the team’s statistics.
“One of the cool things we have been doing is keeping stats of their batting averages on counts,” Nunn said. “Mike O’Malley is hitting .750 in 1-1 counts, so kids are looking at that and making adjustments.
“It changes your approach. When you know you’re [hitting the ball well] when it’s 1-1, you have more confidence and you know where you have success and where to battle.”
So far, Westphal Armstrong has bought into the team’s increased emphasis on statistics.
“As long as we keep having good plate appearances we will be fine,” infielder Preston Reed said. “We have the stats for how we do on certain counts, so as long as we put the ball in play early in the count we will be fine.”
Eric Goldman led the Falcon offense by going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a walk. Michael O’Malley, Brayden Gray, Nick Valkevich, Braeden Lutmer and Dawson Dee picked up RBIs for Westphal Armstrong.
With pool play in the Gopher Classic set to begin the next day, Nunn wanted to see his team carry its success over to the tournament.
“The Gopher Classic is a long tournament and it gives the kids an opportunity to want to be competitive,” Nunn said. “It not only shows our team we are a family and we have to play team games, but it shows that we have depth, we have good athletes that are willing to take the ball and do some things they may not do.”
While he simply wants to see his team improve, Nunn said he would like to see his team be competitive and advance out of pool play.
“Two years ago we made it to the final eight, which is great for our legion program, so getting there, getting further than there, would be great for us,” Nunn said. “Having competitive games where we develop guys, that’s our big goal, but getting out of our pool, that’s what we want to do.
“That’s key for our seniors, that’s key for everybody.”
O’Malley, one of the many seniors on the team, believed depth would play a big role in the tournament.
“We just have to be deep, we played alright in [the Gopher Classic] last year, but we lacked depth a little bit,” O’Malley said. “This team has the depth to do it, so we have to stay focused and be ready to go at the same time.”
For Nunn, the key to success in the Gopher Classic is playing as a team.
“For us it’s trusting each other, showing up knowing that when you get to the field it’s baseball time and we have to do baseball work,” Nunn said. “Our guys have been good about that, we don’t do a normal pregame, we run a mini practice.”
Westphal Armstrong posted a 2-3 record through its five Gopher Classic contests. The team’s first win came with a 5-1 win over Lincoln (Nebraska).
Goldman, Dee, Alex Proctor, Roman Dain, Lutmer and Cole Harms each picked up hits for the Falcons. Lutmer drove in two runs while Dee added an RBI and two runs scored.
Harms also delivered a strong performance on the mound by allowing 10 hits, two runs and three walks over seven innings. He struck out two batters in the contest.
Westphal Armstrong’s second win came against Eagan July 9. O’Malley led the Falcon offense with a 2-for-4 day with three RBIs as Westphal Armstrong captured the 10-2 victory.
Goldman, and Proctor recorded multi-hit games, while Proctor drove in two runs and Gray added one RBI.
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