The Watertown Post 121 American Legion baseball team finished its season this past week with a tough loss to Plato, the defending state champs.
The game was scoreless until the third inning, when Matt Elsenpeter hit a one-out double. Nick Tschida lined out to the pitcher, and then Brendan Weege and Adam Parker hit back-to-back doubles. Mark Sandquist, PJ Hangartner, and Jordan Berrios laced three more singles to make the score 4-0.
Plato answered with one run in the fourth to make the score 4-1. Watertown got the run back in the top of the fifth when Adam Parker reached base with a walk. With two outs, PJ Hangartner pulled a ball down the third base line for a standup double, scoring Adam Parker.
“With only two innings left, I was feeling good about our chances,” Watertown coach Steve Hangartner said. “I knew we had to be on our toes because Plato has some very powerful hitters.”
Plato came up in the bottom of the fifth inning, and Andrew Nichols struck out the first two batters. The third hitter got a single, and then their number three hitter, Adam Prehn, hit the ball about 400 feet over the left field fence to close the gap to 5-3.
In the bottom of the sixth, Plato scored another run to make it 5-4. Zach Iten came in as a relief pitcher to get the team out of a jam.
Going into the last inning, clinging to a one run lead, Brendan Weege showed Plato how to hit a homerun by clearing the fence by about 30 feet. The solo home run made the score 6-4, and gave Watertown some breathing room. Sandquist and Hangartner followed up with two more singles but were stranded on base.
In Plato’s half of the inning, its first batter was hit by a pitch. The next batter reached on a single. Plato decided to bunt the runners over so they would be both in scoring position. The sacrifice attempt turned into a base hit to load the bases with nobody out.
The next batter was walked to score a run making it 6-5 with no outs. The next batter hit a ground ball to Matt Elsenpeter who flipped the ball to second base to get the force out but it wasn’t in time, making the score 6-6, still with nobody out.
Watertown pulled its defense in, including the outfield. However, the next batter was able to hit a grounder past Watertown’s first basemen to seal the victory.
“That was a tough way to lose a game,” Steve Hangartner said. “We were so close. I really felt bad for the boys because really had a good chance to win the tournament.”
Watertown finished the season with a 12-7 record. For the playoffs, Sandquist and PJ Hangartner really stepped up, batting .556 each. Elsenpeter hit .455, Weege hit .375 and Jordan Berrios hit .333. Adam Parker had an on-base percentage of .444.
Over the course of the season, Nichols led the team with a .400 average. Weege hit .372, Hangartner hit .345, Elsenpeter hit .341, Berrrios finished at .300 and Parker also hit .300.
Weege led the team with 16 hits, including two home runs, and a .651 slugging percentage.
“I want to thank all of the boys for playing so hard and never giving up,” Hangartner said. “I would also like to thank Bill Tschida, Russ Runck, and Ryan Hangartner, for all of their help and expertise. I would also like to thank the parents for all of their support. We wouldn’t have been able to make it without the financial help of our Legion Post 121 and contributions from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund.”