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Legion Baseball: East Ridge tops St. Paul Park in doubleheader

St. Paul Park Legion Post 98 player Evan Krhin throws a pitch during the second game of a doubleheader with East Ridge on June 27. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
East Ridge Legion third baseman Brandon Petrie scoops a ground ball at third base during a doubleheader against St. Paul Park. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
East Ridge Legion Post 501 first baseman Cam Hunter stretches to make an out during the second game of a doubleheader against St. Paul Park on June 27. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

The St. Paul Park Post 98 and Woodbury Post 501 East Ridge Legion baseball teams offered a glimpse into the future of their high school baseball programs during a doubleheader June 27 at East Ridge High School.

East Ridge won both games, pulling away in the first contest for a 15-4 victory and also coming back to win 6-4 in game two. Coupled with a 5-2 win against Red Wing on June 29, Post 501 held a summer record of 8-4 heading into a June 30 matchup at Sibley.

East Ridge Legion coach Aaron Rau said the Legion program usually only allows roster spots to graduated seniors who are moving on to play college baseball. Legion baseball is available for players born on or after Jan. 1, 1998, so some teams allow college freshman to play on their rosters.

"We have a younger group than most other teams do," Rau said. "So we're trying to develop talent here, but they are really good. So when you are developing talent, and they are really good, you can still play to win."

Cam Hunter drove in four RBIs in the first game of the doubleheader, with Max Gamm going 3-for-4 at the plate with three runs scored.

St. Paul Park led 2-0 after the first inning in the second game, but East Ridge came back for the 6-4 victory. Three of those runs were scored during a sixth-inning rally.

East Ridge's Brendan McKevitt drove in a team-high two runs on a double in the victory.

Even without some of the seniors from the high school season, the players on the East Ridge Legion team already have valuable experience from a run to the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game.

"I think, just that experience for them learning at that level is good," Rau said. "With Legion, you get a step up in competition because you see some guys who are coming back from college. That experience has helped them make that transition pretty well."

The St. Paul Park Legion team is younger than most Legion teams, but it was not by design. St. Paul Park coach Matt Doornink said the roster only includes three seniors from this spring's Park High School varsity team.

The Legion team had two wins on the season heading into this weekend, and Doornink said the team's goal right now is to improve.

"We're getting more guys experience," he said. "Once we get to the playoffs, get to nine-inning games, we're going to have more arms than these other teams that don't play as much."

St. Paul Park has focused on improving the quality of its starting pitchers during the Legion season. The team has used many pitchers to get experience and cut down on walks before the Legion playoffs.

"Our Achilles heel has been walking guys," Doornink said. "Our defense is OK; our hitting has been slightly above average."