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Legion Baseball: Pierz poised to keep winning

Pierz Legion What: Central Plains Division II Regional Invitational tournament Where: Wahpeton, N.D. When: Thursday through Sunday First game: Pierz vs. West Salem, Wis. 4 p.m. Thursday Radio: KFML 94.1 Stream: fallsradio.com or sfmsports.net For...

Preston Rocheleau of Pierz pitches during the Minnesota State High School League class 2A championship. Rocheleau will also pitch for Pierz in the Central Plains Division II tournament Thursday-Sunday in Wahpeton, N.D. (Steve Kohls, Brainerd Dispatch)
Preston Rocheleau of Pierz pitches during the Minnesota State High School League class 2A championship. Rocheleau will also pitch for Pierz in the Central Plains Division II tournament Thursday-Sunday in Wahpeton, N.D. (Steve Kohls, Brainerd Dispatch)

Pierz Legion

What: Central Plains Division II Regional Invitational tournament

Where: Wahpeton, N.D.

When: Thursday through Sunday

First game: Pierz vs. West Salem, Wis. 4 p.m. Thursday

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Radio: KFML 94.1

Stream: fallsradio.com or sfmsports.net

For Pierz baseball, it's one last stand together.

For four more days, one of the most accomplished area baseball teams will battle for yet another title.

After accomplishing its ultimate goal of winning a state baseball title Sunday, Pierz Legion Post 341 will look to add to its collection of accomplishments when it plays in the Central Plains Division 2 Regional Invitational tournament Thursday through Sunday in Wahpeton, N.D.

Pierz won the Minnesota Division II state title with a 5-1 victory over Proctor Sunday. It will play in Pool A of the eight-team regional and will open 4 p.m. Thursday against West Salem, Wis.

"They've been in a ton of big tournaments," Pierz Legion head coach Dylan Pittman said. "Not just baseball, but in all of the sports that they play, because they're great athletes and they work hard. The stage isn't going to shake them. If you watched them in the state tournament the last couple of years, they never looked overmatched. The fact of the matter is only one team can win the game. We haven't turned out on the championship side until now. That's great for those guys to go out on the winning end of a championship. That's always been the goal for those guys."

After three previous almosts, Pierz celebrated its first baseball state title. Prior to that title-clinching victory, Pierz collected a second in the Minnesota State High School League state tournament June 17 at Target Field in Minneapolis, a fourth in last year's Legion state tournament and a third in the 2016 MSHSL tournament.

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"Getting that state championship off their back, they can probably relax a little bit and go out and play," Pittman said. "They're a very good group of ball players. They could have won any of the tournaments that they've been in. To finally end up on top is a good way to go out, especially for those seniors."

Last weekend five of the players had to choose between playing Legion ball or town ball. Five of the players are on the Buckman Billygoats amatuer baseball roster. Those five were able to get back in time to help Buckman beat Fort Ripley in the Region 8C winner's bracket and secure a place in the Class C state tournament.

With a state spot in place, those players can concentrate on their final tournament as a Legion team.

"Anytime you're an athlete who has been on top, you always want to win," Pittman said. "So when you decide you're going to go play-which they did last weekend and this weekend as well-once you're in, you might as well win. It's icing on the cake, but they're going to go out and win. They're winners. They want to win."

It's all Pierz has done this summer. The Legion team is 14-0 and has few weaknesses. Five players are hitting better than .400 with Noah Boser and Matt Kummet hitting near or above .500.

Pittman loves the intelligence and game savviness of the defense and enjoys three aces on his pitching staff.

"They really can do it all," Pittman said. "Pitching, obviously, was the strength of our high school team.

"This team really doesn't have many weakness and it would be hard to pick out one strength other than pitching. Having guys like Matt Tautges and Preston Rocheleau and then Kummet to be your third guy, and he's as good as most people's first guy. This is a pretty well-rounded team."

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But what to expect in this week's tournament is hard to know. In Pool A along with Pierz and West Salem are Park River, N.D. and Marysville, Kan. Marysville did not win the Kansas state title. The winning team declined the invitation and Marysville was inserted instead.

In Pool B is host Wahpeton, N.D., Holmen, Wis., Thompson, N.D. and Las Vegas.

"I don't think any of us really know what to expect, but I would assume our competition level is going to be as good as it has been," Pittman said. "The teams are going to be good, but these guys are good, too. I expect they can go out and win the dang thing. As long as we go out and play well. That's what we said in (last weekend's) state tournament."

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