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Legion Baseball: Woodbury season ends one game from state

Relief pitcher Ike Thilgen throws to home plate during Sunday’s Legion Sub-State 5 baseball game against Burnsville. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Woodbury first baseman Ronnie Sweeny squeezes a popup during the Sub-State 5 championship game on July 23. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Max Meyer makes a throw from second base to retire a runner during Sub-State Legion play on July 23. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

The Woodbury Legion Blue Post 501 baseball team needed just one more win against Burnsville Sunday to have a chance to defend its Division 1 state tournament title from last season.

But Burnsville will instead be making the trip to the Legion state tournament after defeating Woodbury 6-2 in the Sub State 5 title game on Sunday, July 23 at Alimagnet Park in Burnsville.

Burnsville had the advantage of coming through the winner's bracket of the double-elimination Legion tournament, which helped it throw one of its top pitchers, Henry Ristvedt, in Sunday's Sub-State finale.

"Credit to their first pitcher, though," Legion coach Kyle Hunt said after the season-ending loss. "He was probably the best pitcher we've seen in probably 15 games. That's really all you can say."

Woodbury often had runners on base but was not able to cash in during Sunday's game. Burnsville had eight hits while Woodbury had seven on Sunday.

"They hit, it's just we hit it right at people," Hunt said.

Woodbury started the tournament as the number one seed but faced a reality check early in the Sub-State 5 tournament when it lost to St. Paul Park 9-7 in 11 innings on July 18. Post 501 came back through the elimination bracket, winning games against Lakeville North 8-5, Rosemount 11-1, Farmington 12-0 and East Ridge 13-7.

"I think the St. Paul Park game was kind of a kick in the pants that our group needed a little bit just to kind of refocus and get their heads on straight," assistant Ben Rexroth said. "I've got nothing bad to say about this team. It's a bunch of good kids. Guys who played hard, played the game the right way all year long."

Teams needed pitching depth to survive in the Sub-State 5 tournament, a double-elimination bracket with nine inning games. Woodbury got a bonus in its 12-0 win against Farmington on Saturday, July 22, when Adam Mazur threw a complete game one-hitter against Farmington. He needed just 84 pitches to finish the game.

"We thought we put together a pretty good pitching plan, just as a coaching staff in general," Rexroth said. "We had guys who we kind of kept under a certain amount of pitches so they could bounce back."

The Woodbury coaches said it was tough to see the season end with a team that was close enough to feel like a family. Many of the outgoing seniors have been part of a recent stretch of successful Legion baseball seasons, including last year's team that won the Division 1 state tournament last summer.

"There is a lot of cohesiveness," Hunt said. "It is really nice to see."