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TJ Grauman (front), Logan Jones and Drew Sannes practice Wednesday in Nisswa. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)
TJ Grauman (front), Logan Jones and Drew Sannes practice Wednesday in Nisswa. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)
Legion Baseball: Nisswa set up well for state
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sports Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Well, well, well. Look who it is.

While the one game at a time cliche still rings true, the Nisswa Legion couldn't help but look ahead just a bit.

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Nisswa advanced to the Division I Legion state tournament - which begins Friday in Eagan, Bloomington and Burnsville - by winning the Substate 10 title with a 10-0 blowout of Hermantown July 28.

The 16-0-1 Nisswa will battle Delano 10 a.m. Friday at Alimagnet Park in Burnsville. Should it win, Nisswa could face Lakeville North, who it opened the Class 3A Minnesota State High School League state tournament against. Lakeville North won that game 10-0 in six innings.

"We went to the Legion after practice last night and they did talk about possibly playing them again," said Nisswa head coach Drew Boland. "We looked at their roster and that left hander that we faced (Dalton Lehman) wasn't on their roster."

To face Lakeville North, Nisswa must first beat Delano. The winner of the Substate 11 tournament, Delano advanced to the Class 2A state tournament this spring. Like Nisswa, it lost both of its games.

"I know they have a good catcher, who led the state in home runs during school ball," said Boland. "He's a big left-handed hitter. We're going with TJ (Graumann) on the bump so the lefty vs. lefty matchup will be in play.

"Other than that we don't know a lot about them. However, any team that has made it this far has to be good."

The championship game will be played 1 p.m. Monday in Eagan. While the 16-team tournament is a double-elimination format, the championship game is a winner-take-all game. Brainerd is on the same side of the bracket as Alexandria, which opens with Lakeville North 1 p.m. Friday; Champlin Park, which opens against the St. Cloud Chutes; and St. Francis, which opens with host Eagan.

The other side of the bracket will have Excelsior vs. Burnsville, Rochester Redhawks vs. Tri-City Red, Chaska vs. New Ulm gold and Hutchinson vs. Hamline Purple.

Boland said the key to a tournament like this comes down to pitching and defense.

"I love our pitching staff," he said. "We have four or five really good front-end type starters and then we have some pretty good relievers. We've also been hitting the ball really well. Our team average is well over .300. We've shown good patience as our hitters are willing to take some walks. We've also been good on the base paths. We've stolen quite a few bases.

"If there is one area where I'd like to see us play better it's in the field. We need to play a little looser. We get a little tight in games and make them a lot closer than they need to be."

Tory Miller leads Nisswa with a 4-0 pitching record. He's posting a 3.259 ERA with 21 strikeouts to five walks. Graumann owns a 3-0 record with one save. He's sporting a 1.385 ERA in four games.

Nate DeChaine and Dillon Solid have both started four games. Solid is 3-0 with a 0.982 ERA with 19 Ks and 12 walks. DeChaine is 2-0 and has not allowed an earned run in 27 innings pitched. He leads the team with 32 strikeouts.

Nisswa is batting .330 with 132 runs scored. Nisswa batters have walked 75 times and struck out 66 times.

Mizuki Shumsky is hitting .579 (11-19) with one double, eight RBIs and four runs scored. Drew Sannes is .381 at the plate with three doubles, nine RBIs and eight runs scored. Conor Gessell is batting .379 with four doubles, four RBIs and five runs. Hayden Bukowski is hitting .361 with two doubles, seven RBIs and six runs. Matt Casperson owns a .318 average with six doubles, nine RBis and 10 runs. Miller leads the team with 21 hits and 24 runs scored. Graumann is hitting .324 with two homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs. Taylor Streiff also has a homer to go with nine RBIs and 11 runs. DeChaine leads the team with 13 RBIs and three triples with 14 runs on 14 hits. Logan Jones owns 10 hits, four RBIs and 10 runs scored. Logan Madsen has 10 RBIs and seven runs, while hitting .320.

In limited action, Clark Hickman is hitting .357 with four RBIs and four runs. Evan Brecht has seven hits, two RBIs and six runs. Jacob Russell has scored twice and Paul Augustinack has five RBIs, three runs with a .389 average and Austin Mau has five RBIs and a run on three hits.

Brainerd has committed 44 errors, which does concern Boland

"It's different in the summer when you're not practicing all the time," he said. "Errors are going to happen. I can live with some of them. It's the mental errors that can drive you crazy.

"The further you get into the tournament the more you rely on good defense. All of the teams that are going to be there will have good pitching and be able to hit the ball or at least put it in play. We need to play good defense. We're capable of hitting the ball.

"I also think we're set up pretty well for going deep in the tournament."

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