The Faribault American Legion Post 43 baseball team lost tonight 3-0 to New Ulm Gold in the opening round of the Sub-State 2 Division 1 American Legion Baseball Tournament in Mankato.  The game was played at the recently renovated entirely artificial surfaced Franklin Rogers Field.

Faribault Legion Head Coach Kyle Murphy told KDHL before the game his players had never experienced playing on an entirely artificial turf field and it showed in a couple of plays.  Murphy told us before the game his team played in New Ulm last week and split a doubleheader with their opponent.   They lost a game and won a game by a run so he anticipated a very good game and it was an entertaining affair.

Dylan Vargo won the game last week and took the loss tonight. He pitched well enough to get the win.  So often in a close game mistakes are the difference and that was the case for the Faribault American Legion Post 43 squad.  Vargo hit the first batter on the first pitch of the second inning and that was followed by a ringing single off the bat of New Ulm Gold first baseman Aaron Portner. Portner advanced to second on the throw to third base and the Gold team had a golden opportunity for a big inning.  Runners at second and third base with no outs.

Vargo was called for a balk allowing Braden Zimmerman to score from third and Portner to advance to third base.  Number 7 New Ulm hitter Jordan Fischer hit a 0-2 pitch to right field in hopes of getting another run in on a sacrifice fly. Bailey Reichert made the catch and threw a awesome one hopper to home where Dylan O'Neil applied the tag and Portner was out.  A pop out ended the inning so Vargo did a great job with some defensive help getting out of a jam.

Vargo did not appear to be comfortable pitching off the artificial surface mound early in the game with trouble following through.  I'm sure landing on a spongy surface does feel different from the typical hard dirt mound.

There were two plays where the artificial surface clearly was a factor in the outcome. Ironically it was something we talked to Coach Murphy about before the  game.  The bunt has to be harder to get down on the artificial surface. After Hunter Dienst opened the fourth inning with a 2-1 count single Jake Lauwagie tried to bunt him to second but the ball went nearly back to the mound and the New Ulm pitcher easily threw Dienst out on the play.  Dienst came up hobbling a bit also.  It looked like he might have twisted his ankle a bit on the play but he did not come out of the game.

The artificial surface factor came on defense when New Ulm Legion Post 132 added two runs in the fifth inning.  With one out lead-off man in the order Josh Seidel was walked, Riley Hanson grounded out and it looked like the game was remaining a one run contest.  Number three hitter Hunter Ranweiler stroked what looked to be a routine hit to right but the ball got by the right fielder as it skipped on the artificial surface and went all the way to the fence scoring a runner who walked earlier in the inning and Ranweiler.

Faribault's best opportunity to score off New Ulm right handed pitcher Mark Schommer came in the third inning when O'Neil and Mitch Nelson had back to back singles with one out.  Vargo hit a ball to third and an out was recorded at second base placing runners at the corners and cleanup hitter Adam Vos ended the inning with a swinging strike out.

The New Ulm runs were a lead walk scoring on a balk, a walk and a single resulting in a three base error.

Early in the game the Faribault Legion team left runners in scoring position.  They finished the game with 6 runners left on base and 4 in scoring position.  New Ulm Gold ended with 5 runners left and 2 in scoring position.

Schommer finished the game with 9 strikeouts and 2 walks, scattering 4 hits for the win.  The New Ulm pitcher had 96 pitches, 66 for strikes.

Vargo fanned two batters and walked 4, gave up 5 hits and threw 83 pitches, 53 for strikes.  Our pitch counts a service of Faribault Interiors who have a couple stores in one with their Kitchen Concepts cabinets and countertops and Decor and More flooring and window treatments,

The Chappuis Jewelers Gem Play of the Game came in the very first at bat of the bottom of the first when second baseman Hunter Dienst ranged to his right and gobbled up a ball off the bat of Josh Seidel that looked like it was a sure hit.  Dienst threw out speedy lead hitter.

Our Faribault American Legion Post 43 scoreboard had these for line totals:

New Ulm Gold  3 runs, 5 hits, 1 error, 5 runners left, 2 scoring position

Faribault Post 43  0 runs, 4 hits, 1 error, 6 runners left, 4 in scoring position.

The New Ulm Gold is now 14-10 and plays Jordan at 10:30 tomorrow morning at Franklin Rogers Field in the winner's bracket.

The Faribault Legion Post 43 team plays 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Wolverton Field on the Mankato East High School Campus against Sleepy Eye.  We will not be broadcasting the game.  If they were to win a couple more games then we would pick them up in the final three of the tournament.

Franklin Rogers ParK Mankato Artificial Surface. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld