The Champlin American Legion baseball team has taken the success it had during the high school varsity season and extended it into the summer schedule.
While Champlin has posted a 2-4 record against North Hennepin League opponents so far this summer, head coach Tyler Ockuly has been impressed with what he has seen from his group this summer.
Ockuly got to see his team face its biggest test so far at the Gopher Classic American Legion tournament July 7-9, where the Rebels played five games in three days.
While the Gopher Classic can often add stress to a pitching staff, Ockuly liked where his team was at heading into the tournament.
“We feel confident in the guys that we have that are going to throw,” Ockuly said. “We have about four or five guys that we trust can go out and start a game whenever we need them to.
“We have a lot of guys that can step up and we’re pretty confident right now.”
Champlin opened the tournament with an 8-5 win over Bloomington Gold. Quinn Viktora led the Champlin offense with a 4-for-5 day with three RBIs.
“I have been slumping a little bit, but now that I’m up in the two-spot I’m seeing some more fastballs, something I would like to hit,” Viktora said. “Not too much pressure, I’m just trying to get on, get them over or get them in.”
Ockuly was pleased with what he saw from Viktora during his at-bats against Bloomington Gold.
“Quinn has been swinging it all year, we trust him,” Ockuly said. “We can put him anywhere in the lineup and we can trust him to get on base and that’s the goal.”
Trey Carlson also provided a lift, as he went 2-for-3 in the contest. With regular starting catcher Anthony Pikula out for the game against Bloomington Gold, Carlson stepped in behind the plate for the Rebels.
“Trey is our gamer, we can ask him to do whatever and he’s just going to do it,” Ockuly said. “He never does anything he’s not supposed to, so we really rely on him to do a lot for us.”
Despite having given up five runs, Ockuly liked what he saw from starting pitcher Michael Ulland, who threw a complete game seven-inning outing.
“I think Michael threw a very good game, but we have to play better defense,” Ockuly said. “He did a great job of picking guys up, and that’s what we look for in these guys, being able to pick these guys up one-by-one.”
Ulland was able to control the game at times by picking up several key strikeouts throughout the contest. While Champlin Park was tagged for four errors in the game, Ockuly liked how Ulland continued to rely on his defense,
“We preach all season long to just throw strikes, that’s our goal,” Ockuly said. “We want to throw the ball down the middle and let the defense play, sometimes they aren’t going to come through, but I promise they will come through more than enough times and make plays when you need them.”
Champlin ended the Gopher Classic with a 3-2 record. Champlin wrapped up its regular season July 12, and it will begin play in the Sub-State tournament Wednesday, July 19.
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