Prime position: Austin Post 91 is 2 wins from state tournament

Published 11:32 pm Thursday, July 20, 2017

OWATONNA — The Austin Post 91 Legion baseball team couldn’t have asked for a better performance in the second round of the District tournament in Dartts Park Thursday. Austin kept its offensive momentum going and it kept its pitchers fresh as it beat the Winona LeJetz 10-4.

Austin (15-4 overall) is now two wins from the state tournament and it will play the Rochester Patriots 1 p.m. Saturday in Dartts Park.

Alex Ciola makes contact for the Austin Post 91 baseball team against Winona in Owatonna Thursday. Rocky Hulne/

While the team hasn’t lost a district game all year, Austin catcher Phillip Zynda, who had a double and two RBIs Thursday, said the squad is still motivated to keep pushing.

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“You don’t want do drop off,” Zynda said. “With us doing so great, we want to keep getting better. We’ve been practicing and playing all year to go to state and getting this close makes us want to work a little harder.”

For the second straight game Austin faced an early deficit as Winona jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Post 91 had a big answer as it took a 2-1 lead on a two-out RBI single by Josi Bothun in the bottom of the first and Pete Conner and Dan Bollingberg knocked in runs in the second to put Post 91 up 5-1.

Riley Retterath makes solid contact for Austin Post 91 against Winona in a District tournament game in Owatonna Thursday. Rocky Hulne/

Bothun had a big day at the plate as he went three-for-five with a double and three RBIs. He said Post 91’s success has come due to their patience and lack of panic when they fall into a hole.

“The first inning doesn’t really mean anything when you’ve got a nine inning game,” Bothun said. “We just had to stay loose.”

Bollingberg, Bothun and Alex Ciola split the pitching duties and all three were able to stay under the 75-pitch mark to make themselves available for later in the tournament.

“It’s always scary when you’re dealing with pitch counts and when you have nine guys for the weekend you have to put yourself in the best position to have pitchers available,” Austin head coach Joe Kroc said. “It couldn’t have gone any better.”

Dan Bollingberg pitches for Austin Post 91 against Winona in Owatonna Thursday. Rocky Hulne/

Post 91 now has a chance to earn its second trip to state in third year, but Kroc said the team will have to come out focused on Saturday if it wants to move on.

“The next game is the most important one,” Kroc said. “If you lose, you have to 27 more innings to win and if you win, you have to lose twice to be out.”

The District title game will be held in Dartts Park in Owatonna 1 p.m. Sunday. If a second game is necessary, it will begin at 4 p.m.

Owatonna 1 0 0  1 0 0  2 0 0    4     7  1

Austin 2 3 0  2 0 0  2 0 X  — 10  10  2

Austin pitching: Dan Bollingberg (W) 4 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 K; Josi Bothun, 3 2/3 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 K, 2 HBP; Alex Ciola, 1 iP, 0 R, 1 K

Austin hitting: Jack Dankert, 0-for-3, R, 2 BBs; Alex Ciola, 0-for-2, R, BB, 2 HBPs; Bollingberg, 1-for-3, double, RBI, 2 R, HBP; Phillip Zynda, 1-for-4, double, 2 RBIs, R; Josi Bothun, 3-for-5, double, 3 RBIs; Riley Retterath, 1-for-3, R, BB; Hunter Johnson, 1-for-3, RBI, R, BB; Pete Conner, 2-for-4, RBI, R; Ross Young, 1-for-4, R; AJ Mueller, 0-for-1

Austin’s Hunter Johnson is greeted by Ross Young after scoring a run against Winona in a District tournament game in Owatonna Thursday. Rocky Hulne/