Austin Post 91 bounces back from early hole to get past Rochester Redhawks

Published 9:23 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2017

If the Austin Post 91 Legion baseball team had a mantra for this summer, it would be to keep calm and carry on. That’s exactly what Austin did in the face of a little adversity in its District tournament opener as it staved off some early struggles to beat the Rochester Mayo Redhawks 15-5 in eight innings in Marcusen Park Tuesday.

The Redhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead as they compiled five hits in the top of the first inning, but Post 91 didn’t break down or shy away. Austin (14-4 overall) stayed patient at the plate and it chipped away until it was back in control.

“We knew it was a long game,” said Austin first baseman Hunter Johnson, who was two-for-two with two runs. “You can’t let that bring you down early in the game. You string a couple of hits together and the mentality changes.”

Austin Post 91’s Jack Dankert strides home against Rochester Tuesday night at Marcusen Park. Eric Johnson/

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Post 91, which racked up 17 hits, took the lead for good in the third inning when Pete Conner drove in a run and Austin scored another run off an error. Austin pushed the lead to 10-4 in the fifth when Jack Dankert and Dan Bollingberg had back-to-back RBIs.

“With nine inning games and you get up or down early, there’s a lot of game and a lot of things can change,” Austin head coach Joe Kroc said. “When you have 17 hits and a lot of hard hit balls right at guys, that means the guys are locked in and it’s fun to watch.”

As it has much of this summer, Austin’s entire lineup stepped up in the win. All nine starters had at least one hit and Riley Retterath went three-for-five from the No. 7 spot.

“We just had to keep our heads together and know that one through nine, everyone’s going to hit the ball,” Retterath said. “You have to be aggressive and find your pitch.”

Austin will play Winona in Owatonna 7 p.m. Thursday. If Post 91 wins that game, it’ll move onto the final four and play Saturday in Owatonna.

In 2015, Post 91 played in its first state tournament in 25 years, but in 2016 Austin missed out on the state tournament, despite being the top seed in the District.

Austin Post 91’s Daniel Bollingberg rounds third on the way to scoring against Rochester Tuesday night. Eric Johnson/

Dan Bollingberg, who went two-for-three with three RBIs Tuesday, and Alex Ciola, who was one-for-five Tuesday, were members of both of those teams and Kroc said their experience is vital for this year’s Austin team.

“Dan and Alex have had success where we went to state and then we had everyone coming back and it didn’t happen,” Kroc said. “Their leadership has been great to tell these guys, just because we are the one seed doesn’t mean we’ve earned anything. We’re going to see some tighter ball games moving forward and they’re going to have to execute.”

Rochester 3 0 0  1 0 0  1 0    5  13  6

Austin 1 1 2  2 4 4  0 1    15  17  0

Austin pitching: Jack Dankert (W) 5 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 4 K; Alex Ciola, 2 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 1 K; Luke Hawkshead, 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 ER

Austin hitting: Jack Dankert, 2-for-3, RBI, Alex Ciola, 1-for-5, 2 R; Dan Bollingberg, 2-for-3, double, 3 RBIs, 3 R, 2 BBs; Phillip Zynda, 2-for-5, 2 RBIs, 2 R, HBP; Josi Bothun, 3-for-3, RBI, R, BB; Pete Conner, 1-for-5, RBI; Riley Retterath, 3-for-5, 2 R; Hunter Johnson, 2-for-2, 2 R, BB, HBP; Ross Young, 1-for-5, 2 R; Michael O’Connor, 0-for-1