Albert Lea/Austin’s Tommy Olmsted is greeted by Marcus Stoulil at home plate after scoring a run against Kasson-Mantorville Tuesday at Dick Seltz Field. — Rocky Hulne/Albert Lea Tribune
Albert Lea/Austin’s Tommy Olmsted is greeted by Marcus Stoulil at home plate after scoring a run against Kasson-Mantorville Tuesday at Dick Seltz Field. — Rocky Hulne/Albert Lea Tribune

7-run rally wins 1st game

Published 3:49am Wednesday, June 19, 2013

AUSTIN — Slowly but surely, a group of baseball players who used to concentrate on beating each other while playing for the Albert Lea High School and Austin High School squads are starting to come together as one team.

The Albert Lea/Austin Legion baseball team split a doubleheader Tuesday with Kasson-Mantorville by winning the opener 9-2 and dropping the nightcap 8-5 in 10 innings.

Albert Lea/Austin’s Johnathan Fleek fires a pitch in game two of a doubleheader against Kasson-Mantorville Tuesday at Dick Seltz Field.  Fleek pitched for four innings, struck out two batters and allowed four hits and two walks. — Rocky Hulne/Albert Lea Tribune
Albert Lea/Austin’s Johnathan Fleek fires a pitch in game two of a doubleheader against Kasson-Mantorville Tuesday at Dick Seltz Field. Fleek pitched for four innings, struck out two batters and allowed four hits and two walks. — Rocky Hulne/Albert Lea Tribune

The biggest thing the team gained was time together, which will only make them more comfortable with each other.

“It’s a lot better than what I thought it would be,” said Johnathan Fleek, who went 4-for-7 with a double and two RBIs. “They have some good players and we do too. We showed we can work together, even if we’re rivals. Everyone was hanging out with their own town at first, but then we kind of got used to each other.”

Every player on the roster got a chance to play on Tuesday as the team is trying to figure out its identity. It’s a different experience for players that are used to starting at one position all season, but it’s one they’re willing to deal with.

“Everybody’s been around in the order in one way or another and we’re playing different positions,” said Marcus Stoulil of Austin. “With a combined team, that’s what we’re going to have to do, and once the games start mattering more, it’ll come together.”

Albert Lea/Austin (1-3 overall) used a seven-run rally in the fifth inning to win game one. Gabe Kasak and Marcus Stoulil each came up with two-run singles, and Zach Huntley drove in another run to put the home team up 8-2.

Albert Lea/Austin relief pitcher Jacob Kempen picked up the win by pitching five shutout innings.

“From top to bottom we’ve got some pretty darn good kids,” Albert Lea/Austin co-head coach Bob Stratton said. “It’s how well we mesh together.”

The second game went back and fourth as Albert Lea/Austin scored in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Gabe Kasak, but it couldn’t knock in the winning run even though it had the bases loaded with one out. Albert Lea/Austin again tied the game at 5 in the bottom of the eighth, when Fleek knocked in a run with two-out single.

Kasson-Mantorville finally took control of the nightcap when it tallied three hits and drew three walks in the top of the 10th. Albert Lea/Austin had the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the tenth and Kasak flew out to left field.

“We are in no way, shape or form trying to get the best nine players on the field together. That’s not the goal right now,” Stratton said. “As the season progresses we may evolve into that, but that’s not where we want to be now.”

Stoulil said that he sees potential in this squad to be solid by the end of the season when everyone’s roles are established. But right now, the team is still trying to get to know each other.

“There’s a few of us from both towns trying to get kids to ease up a bit by being ourselves and playing baseball,” Stoulil said. “I see a lot of potential. We have so much versatility. We have five or six solid pitchers and everybody can play three or four positions.”

The roster of 18 players has created some new problems for the coaching staff. While it used to be tough to find enough players to fill up a roster, the coaches must now decide who plays and who sits.

“We went from the frying pan into the fire,” Stratton said. “For the past couple of years, you were counting heads and everybody that showed up played. Now we’re in the other direction, but it’s good. The alternative, which would be not having a team, is not good.”