For the second consecutive year, Aitkin’s American Legion baseball team qualified for a berth in the Junior Legion State tournament at St. Charles, Aug. 9-11, for players 16-17 years of age. Aitkin finished second at the 2018 state tournament. Aitkin’s Legion team has been sponsored by Post 86 and in a large part the Aitkin Baseball Association, and a fundraiser is planned to help offset the state tournament expenses.
Aitkin won four straight sub-state games with a strong offensive attack, winning 10-0 twice and savoring a pair of one run victories over Upsala in the other games. Depth on the mound with outstanding pitching performances from Logan Olson, Caiden Kjelstrom, Jon Blanchette, Joey Simonson, and Jake Ince was vital to their success.
The pitch count rule for Legion baseball differs slightly from high school. If a pitcher throws fewer than 30 pitches, he can pitch the next day. If he pitches between 31 and 46 pitches, he needs one day rest; 46-64 pitches, two days; 64-85, three days; and 85-105, four days. No pitcher is allowed to throw more than 105 pitches in one game.
Aitkin battled Upsala to a 4-3 victory, July 29, at Parkers Prairie. The locals trailed Upsala 3-1 after five innings of action. Aitkin’s first run came in the fifth after Ince reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on Blanchette’s single.
Aitkin tied the score at three with a pair of runs in the sixth. Hunter Nissen walked to lead off the inning, and Kjelstrom was hit by the pitcher. A single by Kuppich and an Upsala error allowed the tying runs to score.
Upsala threatened in the top of the seventh. Logan Olson, who was sharp for 6.2 innings, got into a jam with two out and the bases loaded. He was relieved by Kuppich, who threw only one pitch which resulted in an infield fly. Aitkin was out of the inning with no damage.
In the bottom of the seventh, Ince led off with a single, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored the winning run on Blanchette’s sacrifice fly.
Kuppich, although throwing only one pitch, was credited with the win. Kuppich and Nissen had two hits apiece.
Correction: The July 31 edition of the Age incorrectly identified Logan Olson in a photo which ran with the article “Jr. Legion in Sub State.” Actually pictured was Jon Blanchette.