Glenwood-Lowry staves off elimination four times and walks off Granite Falls to clinch state berth

Jacob Blair scored the game-winning run for Glenwood-Lowry to complete the five-game weekend. After dropping the opening contest of the double-elimination four-team playoff tournament to Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, Glenwood-Lowry won its next four games to earn a spot at the state tournament.

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Glenwood-Lowry celebrates after Jacob Blair scores the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning on July 25, 2021. Blair also pitched the final 3.2 innings to earn the win. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

On Friday night, it looked as if one lousy inning would cost the Glenwood-Lowry Post 187 & 253 Legion baseball team (17-3) a chance at a West-Central District championship. But the depth of the pitching staff and timely hitting propelled Glenwood-Lowry to four elimination-game wins on its way to a title over the weekend.

After beating Granite Falls 7-1 on Sunday to force a do-or-die championship game, Darion Alexander lofted a ball into centerfield with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning. Jacob Blair, who took off on the crack of the bat from second base, approached third when head coach Joe Alexander signaled him home. The ball dropped in front of Granite Falls' Cody Dahlhager, whose throw was late to home plate.

Glenwood-Lowry's 4-3 win culminated four straight victories with the team's back against the wall en route to a district championship and a state tournament berth.

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Darion Alexander (right) is mobbed after driving in the game-winning run on a ball hit to left field in Glenwood-Lowry's West-Central District Legion playoff tournament win in the 10th inning on July 25, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)


"I've said it before, these guys are battle-tested," coach Alexander said. "I've been with them since they were 9 years old, traveling around the state with them and playing in big tournaments. It always seemed like they were playing late into Sunday. They're bulldogs. They don't give in, and they don't give up."

Glenwood-Lowry took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when Dylan Alexander drove in Darion Alexander on a soft ground ball to the shortstop.

PJ Johnson had gone three consecutive innings without allowing a Granite Falls run. But, with the heart of the order due up, one of the last hitters Alexander wanted to see stepped into the batter's box.

With a runner on third and one out, Granite Falls' Cole Fischer ripped a single through the left side of the infield to tie the game. It was his second clutch hit of the afternoon following his go-ahead home run in the top of the third inning.

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Cole Fischer bats for Granite Falls in the top of the seventh inning in game two of the West-Central District Legion playoff championship on July 25, 2021. Fischer belted a homerun and a game-tying single for Granite Falls in the loss to Glenwood-Lowry. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

"They've got three or four extremely good hitters," coach Alexander said. "You just hope your kids can make an extremely good pitch because you're not going to get them out if they don't. He barreled one up when PJ left one a little high down the middle. That's what he's capable of, so every time he came up, we backed up a few steps."

Johnson exited the game after the game-tying single. He gave up three earned runs and struck out two batters. Blair came in from second base to record the final 11 outs of the game. He allowed just one hit and walked one in his 3.2 innings of work.


In game one, Torii Johnson went the distance. He allowed three hits and no earned runs while striking out five Granite Falls hitters. Glenwood-Lowry's pitching on Sunday was outstanding in its fourth and fifth games in three days.

"We take a lot of pride in pitching," coach Alexander said. "We have three of the top pitchers in the area, but we have a lot of guys on that supporting cast for them too. They come in and clean things up for them but are capable of starting and going a long way into the game."

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Aaron Ver Steeg reaches over the fence by the first base line on July 23, 2021 during Glenwood-Lowry's 8-6 loss to Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunberg. Glenwood-Lowry went on to win the West-Central District Legion playoff tournament by beating Granite Falls in back-to-back games on July 25, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Glenwood-Lowry entered the elimination side of the bracket after an opening-round loss to Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg. Leading 6-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, KMS put up eight runs.

Aaron Ver Steeg, one of Glenwood-Lowry's highly-regarded pitchers, gave up six earned runs on six hits.

"KMS is a good baseball team," Alexander said. "They were ranked near the top of the Class A rankings all year. We didn't make many errors that inning, and Aaron threw good pitches. Sometimes you have to give a team credit for not giving up. They were down 6-0 and put up eight runs in one inning. They hit the ball when they had to. They beat us, and we didn't beat ourselves. That's baseball."


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Mattson Hoff blocks a ball in the dirt during Ashby's loss to Granite Falls on July 23, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

The loss set up a rematch against Ashby, who handed Glenwood-Lowry one of its two regular-season losses. After a 2-1 loss two weeks ago, Glenwood-Lowry put up nine runs on Ashby's vaunted pitching staff to advance.

"It was a tough draw, and we knew we were going to have our hands full," Alexander said. "We looked at it as a great opportunity because the competition was so tough. It makes you elevate your game. We couldn't hang our heads and dwell on the loss from the night before."

Ashby fell to Granite Falls in its first game of the tournament on Friday night before falling to Glenwood-Lowry 9-1. Torin Olson, Hunter Norby, Carson Spangler and Jake Norby recorded the only four hits.

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Torin Olson makes a throw across his body to first base in Ashby's loss to Granite Falls on July 23, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Darion Alexander threw for Glenwood-Lowry on the mound against Ashby and went six innings. He struck out eight and walked three in the win.

Glenwood-Lowry's win over Ashby set up a rematch with KMS. This time, Glenwood-Lowry put up eight runs in the third inning on its way to a 13-1 win in five innings. Mitchell Gruber, Darion Alexander, Ver Steeg, Riley Johnson and PJ Johnson had multi-hit games to avenge the round-one loss.


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PJ Johnson fields the ball and throws to first base in Glenwood-Lowry's 8-6 loss to Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunberg on July 23, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

"It felt extremely good to come back against those guys after a tough loss the night before," coach Alexander said. "We were able to put up eight runs ourselves, so that was impressive against a tremendous baseball team. It was a great weekend with a lot of great baseball. Like I've said: I'll stack our guys up with anybody else in the state. Now we get a shot to do that."

Glenwood-Lowry will begin its Legion Division II tournament run July 30-Aug. 1. The state tournament kicks off with a banquet on July 29, with the first game being played on Friday in Sacred Heart.

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Mitchell Gruber throws the ball to first base in Glenwood-Lowry's 8-6 loss to Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunberg on July 23, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

This tournament is single-elimination, and features eight teams from Minnesota's 10 Legion districts. The winning team will compete in the American Legion National Regional tournament in Waupun Wisc., starting Aug. 6.

"The competition at state is going to be great," Alexander said. "We've seen a lot of the teams before, and it's going to be a lot of fun. I have all the confidence in the world in my kids, and they're going to go out there and put on a good show."


Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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