The Westphal Armstrong American Legion baseball team felt good about its chances in the Sub-State 9 tournament after picking up a win to open the weekend tournament.
The Falcons trailed 6-2 to Wayzata 2 after three innings before coming back to take a 9-7 victory to open the tournament.
Westphal Armstrong’s win to open the sub-state tournament proved to be its last, as losses to Coon Rapids and Andover ended the Falcons’ 2017 season.
“I think we gave our best,” Westphal Armstrong head coach Jimmer Nunn said. “We had a lot of injuries at the end of the year and the kids got to learn a lot about themselves and how they handle playoff-like games.
“It’s hard, the kids started playing in January, some were playing winter baseball, so it’s a grind when you get to the end of July.”
Coming off the win over Wayzata 2, Westphal Armstrong played Coon Rapids, the tournament’s top-seeded team. The Falcons were held to one hit as Coon Rapids earned a 5-1 victory.
Westphal Armstrong’s season came to an end with a 13-8 loss to Andover July 21.
Alex Sturnieks led Westphal Armstrong by batting 2-for-4 with one run scored and two RBIs. Alex Proctor (2-for-4 with two runs scored and one RBI), Dawson Dee (3-for-5 with one RBI), Preston Reed (2-for-4 with one run scored and one RBI), Ben Strassman (1-for-3 with one RBI) and Roman Dain (two RBIs) also had strong days for Westphal Armstrong in its season-ending loss to Andover.
“They kept battling, they did their best and we went as far as we could go, given the circumstances,” Nunn said. “They learned more about how badly you have to go if you want to win it all.
“We are learning more about limitations and these are life lessons that I hope kids could figure out at all the different levels they compete at. You have to really want it.”
Despite coming up short of extending the season at state, Nunn is proud of the way his team played.
“We faced some really good competition and some guys that know how to win,” Nunn said. “We faced Coon Rapids and they had a really good pitcher going against us, so you have to give them credit.
“We battled, we did the best we could. Given everything I’m very happy with where we ended. You obviously would like to win, but I will take the development my guys showed this year.”
With many players on the roster set to play big roles for the varsity team in the spring, Nunn was happy to see progression from his group.
“I think [the younger guys] showed they took some steps forward,” Nunn said. “We brought A.J. Sturnieks up from VFW and he had some big hits against Andover, which is really cool for a younger guy.
“He is going to take a really big step going into next year. Roman Dain was another outfielder that got a lot of time to work on stuff and he got a lot better.”
With the team’s younger players having learned from Westphal Armstrong’s numerous experienced seniors, Nunn believes the team’s balance was one of its strengths this summer.
“This was definitely one of the most competitive groups that I have had, which is really cool,” Nunn said. “At the beginning of the year we talked about how half our team was JV guys and the other half were varsity guys, but none of that matters, because they were my legion guys.
“They really started to buy into that and play as a team. We won the most games that I have won since coaching here, so that was cool.”
Westphal Armstrong played to a 13-10-1 record this season.
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