All seasons all come to an end and not many teams have the chance to end on a victory. Breckenridge Post 53 shook off a pair of losses to start the Minnesota State Tournament and ended their season with a 7-1 win over tournament hosts, Ely, Minnesota, on Saturday, Aug. 3. It was the first trip to state for Post 53 since 1972.
Even though they took home seventh place from the eight-team tournament, Breck was narrowly bested by the eventual second-place team (Plato, Minnesota) and they topped the eventual champs (Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Minnesota) three times in the high school season.
“It’s the first time we’ve been here for a long time and one thing we learned being here is we absolutely belong here. We’re as good as anybody here,” Breckenridge coach Kevin Hiedeman said. “We were a play away from winning that first game and if we do we would’ve been playing Wadena. We beat that kid who’s throwing Wadena earlier in the year in high school, so we’re a play from who knows what.”
Following the emotional loss on the first day, Breckenridge came out flat against BOLD (Bird Island-Olivia-Lake Lillian), Minnesota. The game was scoreless until a three-run rally from BOLD turned the tide. The lone run for Post 53 came in off an RBI single from Mitch Porter.
Connor Twidwell was tagged with the loss, but the young pitcher held his own before coming out of the game.
The loss sent Breck to the seventh-place game later in the day. Multiple lightning delays limited the game to five innings, but that didn’t keep the visitors from pouring on runs.
After walking a batter with bases loaded in the bottom of the opening inning, Post 53 tied it up in their next trip to the plate. Brayden Wahl boomed a double and a sac bunt by Jake Wendorff set up Max Johnson’s RBI rip over the second baseman.
Breckenridge cashed in on multiple free bases as they put four more on the board in the next inning. Wahl came through for another big hit to plate a runner and the rest of the rally runs came on bases-loaded walks.
The final scores came off an error and an RBI single from Wendorff, respectively.
Carter Haugen pitched the first four innings and Andrew Kram finished off the final inning.
It was the final Legion game for super-seniors Tommy Hiedeman, Kram and Porter.
“You could argue they were our three best players. Tommy behind the plate, Andrew is an overall great athlete that you can put anywhere. He batted fourth and led off for us sometimes and Mitch had by far the most innings pitching for us,” Coach Hiedeman said. “He’s just a great guy to have on the mound and you know what you’re going to get from him. He’s a great outfielder and led us in hitting. Those guys are hard to replace. Their leadership makes it like having three coaches on the field.”
Seniors Luke Arnhalt, Johnson, Jeremy Stack and Wendorff are young enough to return next season, but it was the final game for their classmates Hunter Feigum, Chris Korinek and Hayden Schuler. Each of them got in for at least one play in their final game.
The senior group will be remembered not only for their big wins, but their character as well. That showed when Post 53 was awarded Sportsmanship Trophy from the tournament. Examples from the weekend include Feigum randomly hugging a baserunner at the end of an inning, playing tic-tack-toe on a baseball with the opposing team during a lightning delay and some of the infielders writing funny notes in the dirt back and forth with the other team’s infielders when they took the field.
“They had fun, they played together and had no primadonnas. They’re a great dugout and in baseball it’s all those little things that matter,” Coach Hiedeman said. “They had a great attitude from the beginning of the season to the end. That’s what got them here.”
Coach Hiedeman also commended his players for their love of the game. Most seasons it’s a group of athletes that enjoy the game, with a few thrown in the mix that approach it like a job they don’t want to show up for. That wasn’t the case with this roster.
“This team was unique in that they actually enjoy the game,” Coach Hiedeman said. “We’ve had teams that have had better talent, better players or better pitching, but we’ve never had a team that wanted to play baseball more than these guys do.”
Even with a large amount of players departing, Breckenridge will have a strong nucleus to build around next year. Jack Aigner, Haugen, Carson Hought, Tyson Piechowski, Twidwell, Emmit Vig and Wahl have all started at one point in high school or Legion.
“There’s a lot of talent. We just finished playing a game 20 minutes ago and you’re already thinking about next year. Maybe that’s just what coaches do,” Coach Hiedeman said. “We’ve got a great bunch of guys coming back and on the B Legion team there are some guys that are awfully good. There’s good things coming forward.”
Post 53 ends their season with a record of 20-8. Even though it’s the last Legion game for most of the older players, it might not be their last baseball game in a Breck uniform.
“We’ve been talking about starting an amateur team in Breckenridge for quite a few years now. The success that this group’s had and the numbers they have, they’re all pretty serious about starting an amateur team,” Coach Hiedeman said. “That’s all just a net result of the community supporting them and the success they’ve had.”