Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 28, 2000

LP Senior Babe Ruth team wins league championship

By Earl Heldt and Wes Schmidt, LP Babe Ruth Baseball Coaches

The Lester Prairie Senior Babe Ruth team had a successful season, recording a 14-2 record with two forfeits.

With some players on the team since April, and others only playing for the summer schedule, the team put together the quality of play that led them to take the championship in the Crow River League Aug. 5, at Plato.

The road to the championship started July 31 at Lester Prairie with a 10-0 win over Jordan. Justin Heldt was on the mound for the locals, throwing an excellent four-inning no-hitter, while giving up no walks. Dave Eckstein pitched the fifth inning to finish the game.

Eric Sandoz and Heldt led the team with 2 hits each. Heldt also had 4 RBI, with Sandoz knocking in 3.

In a second home game Aug. 2 against Plato, Lester jumped off to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning, capped by a long home run by Phillip Schmalz.

Temperatures were in the 90s as Andy Ross, on the mound, kept the Plato bats in control, and the Lester team built an 8-1 lead after four innings. Eckstein also pitched well in the last three innings of relief, and Lester won the game 9-3.

Tony Kley and Lee Kappes led the team with 2 hits each. Eckstein, Dave Paulson, Schmalz and Heldt all had 2 RBI.

This win set up a semi-final match between Lester Prairie and Norwood Aug. 4 in Norwood. These two teams had split their games during the year, and were ranked number one and number two in the league.

It was a good night for baseball, and anticipation was at a season-high. Both teams knew a victory would give them a bye, en route to the title game.

Kley drew pitching duty for this game. Norwood jumped off to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, with a batter hit by a pitch, another reached on an error, and a timely single to produce the 3 runs. Kley retired the next 12 batters in a row in a great pitching performance.

Kley gave way to Ross in relief in the fifth inning, and Norwood fought back by scoring 3 runs, closing the gap to 8-6.

With Ross pitching in the bottom of the seventh, the stage was set for a great ending. Norwood had 2 men on base with 2 outs and a very fine number two man at the plate who had singled and tripled earlier in the game.

Ross's first pitch was a ball. The second pitch was delivered and smashed deep to center with Sandoz catching it at the fence and giving Lester the win.

Paulson led the team with 2 hits. Heldt had 3 RBI, followed by Paulson and Schmalz with 2 each.

Lester met Plato again in the championship game. The game was closely played by both teams through the first three innings, with the score tied at 4 at the end of three.

In the bottom of the fourth, Lester scored 3 runs on 1 hit and 2 Plato errors. This was all Lester needed to give them the momentum to finish the game.

Kappes was the starting pitcher for the game. Kley came in to finish the game in the fifth, pitching shut-out ball and giving Lester a 7-4 win and their second championship in four years.

In the championship game, six players had 1 hit each. The biggest hit came in the bottom of the third. Plato was ahead 4-2 with two on and two out. Jesse Christenson was at the plate, having a good at-bat by fouling off a couple of pitches with 2 strikes on him. He then hit one over the shortstop into left field for a single to tie the game. Christenson led the team in this game with 2 RBI.

This team was highly competitive through the year, and knew how to turn difficult situations into positive results.

Pitching, the first key on defense, was led by Kappes with 4-1, followed by Ross 3-0 with one save, Heldt 2-0, Eckstein 2-1, and Kley 3-2.

Total runs scored this year were 151, giving up 98, with only 68 earned.

The team had 68 strikeouts. In 106 innings, Kley led the team with 26, followed by Kappes with 25 and Ross with 22.

The team also averaged 8 steals per game.

RBI leaders were Heldt with 29, Paulson 20, Eckstein 17, and Schmalz and Ross with 15 each.

The players were very dedicated in coming to practices and games, which contributed to their success.

The coaches would like to express their appreciation to the players, parents, and guardians for their support; and to the city employees who kept the fields in great condition, the umpires for their integrity and professional approach to the game, Kelli Machemehl for organizing the summer program, and many other individuals and organizations who helped to make the program successful again this year.

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