Time and time again on Tuesday, the Eastview American Legion baseball team showed the type of resiliency that would make people ask: Does this team believe in losing?
Trailing 4-3 in the Gopher Classic semifinal against Eden Prairie, the Thunder scored four unanswered runs to remain unbeaten in tournament play and advance to the championship against Coon Rapids. Three times in the title game, trailing two runs or more, Eastview climbed back with the type of clutch hits that helped them produce a 13-game winning streak.
In its previous 15 games, Eastview came from behind to win six times.
But on Tuesday afternoon, the Thunder couldn’t quite come all the way back. Eastview fell 7-5 to Coon Rapids at Veterans Field in Minnetonka and claimed second place in the 66-team Gopher Classic—the largest Legion tournament in the country.
Eastview finished the Gopher Classic with an 8-1 record.
“Right now we’re a little disappointed,” catcher Matt Decovich said. “Obviously we want to win. But out of 66 teams being second best in the nation’s best tournament is pretty good. Tomorrow, I’ll be fine about it.”
The Thunder (21-3) came into the tournament having won 15 of 16 games in the month of July, including a first-place finish in the New Ulm Upper Midwest Classic.
At this weekend’s Gopher Classic, Eastview swept its way through the five-team pool play round on Friday through Sunday in Bloomington. After two wins on Monday and a 7-5 win over Eden Prairie in the semifinal, the Thunder had a shot at championship against Coon Rapids.
But Coon Rapids was too much on Tuesday, opening up a 3-0 lead in the second inning and never letting Eastview climb back enough to take the lead.
The Thunder cut their deficit to 3-2 in the third inning thanks to a two-run double by Matt Larson. After Coon Rapids made it 4-2, Eastview again climbed back with a run in the fifth inning. Evan Decovich drove in Taylor Branstad to cut the lead to 4-3.
But Coon Rapids answered with three runs in the top of the sixth, and with two outs and trailing 7-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Thunder looked for another comeback bid.
They almost got it, as Evan Decovich hit a two-run home run to left field and cut the deficit to 7-5.
“There is a lot of character on this team,” coach Bob Klefsaas said. “The thing I like about them is they love to be with each other. Playing baseball has got to be fun first and foremost, and it is with these guys.”
The Thunder’s next game is Wednesday at Burnsville in a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. Klefsaas said he’s proud of his team’s performance at the Gopher Classic, and he looks for his team to bounce back quickly and make a postseason run later this month.
“We’re disappointed,” Klefsaas said. “But they played [well]—the great thing about baseball is the best team won today.”
Coon Rapids 2 1 0 1 0 3 0 — 7 12 1
Eastview 0 0 2 0 1 0 2 — 5 8 1