White Bear VFW team wins 16-team tournament

Back Row (L-R): Coach Sam Erickson, Ben McCrady, Tim Boncher, Matt Kaehler, Ryan Mattson, Conner Stanley, Kyle Gibson, Andrew Cole, Coach Cory Hazard

Front Row: Jacob Banning, Eli Reeves, Jack Setterlund, Noah Jacka, Joel Seifried, Henry Willcoxon

White Bear Lake’s VFW baseball team captured the championship of a 16-team St. Cloud VFW tournament last weekend, boosted by strong pitching performances and one huge game-saving hit when they were down to their last strike.

“This is a fantastic group,” said coach Cory Hazard. “They work super hard, they have fun, and from the top to the bottom of the lineup, everyone contributes.” 

The Bears went 4-0 in the three-day event. All juniors-to-be, they have a 15-1-1 record with three games left.

Pitching got the Bears through the first two rounds Friday. Noah Jacka pitched a 4-2 win over Anoka, allowing just four hits and one walk, striking out nine. Tim Boncher went 3-for-4 at the plate. Jack Setterlund twirled a 1-0 shutout of Orono in the evening, allowing seven hits but no walks, striking out five. He was backed by errorless defense. The lone run came in the fourth as Kyle Gibson’s single knocked in Boncher, who’d been hit by pitch.

The Bears clipped Hill-Murray 8-6 in the semifinals Saturday after Gibson delivered a three-run double in the top of the seventh, on a 3-2 count with two outs, erasing H-M’s 6-5 lead. Gibson and Eli Reeves each rapped four hits as the Bears rallied from a 6-1 deficit. Matt Kaehler pitched four innings and Joel Siefred the final three, picking up the win.

“These guys are relentless. They’ve come from behind like that in a lot of games,” Hazard said,

In the finals, the Bears topped Cherry, a small Iron Range town, 7-4. Reeves pitched the distance, yielding nine hits but just one walk, striking out five. Setterlund was 4-for-4, all singles, knocking in three runs. Ryan Mattson had two hits.

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