The Farmington VFW baseball team did something no other Farmington VFW team has ever done before: reach the district championship game. While they ended up taking second to New Ulm Gold, it was a fantastic finish to the season. What makes it even more remarkable is that until the playoffs began, they had their struggles.
"We were a .500 team, I think our overall record we ended up being a game below .500," head coach Jared Rowan said. "We made it to the championship game of districts, came through the winners bracket, it was a double elimination-style tournament. We were the undefeated team, but lost twice to the team that came out of the loser's bracket. No VFW baseball team from Farmington had ever accomplished that before, so that was pretty exciting."
Rowan said that the biggest change between the regular season and playoffs was not anything in terms of Xs and Os, but rather the team's intangibles.
"The biggest thing I stressed to them was coming with energy every day," he explained. "It's very easy to not show up for a random Tuesday night game at six o'clock in Eden Prairie. That's the biggest thing we stressed, we have to show up and play every single game because we didn't have the type of talent where we could just show up and win baseball games, regardless of who we were playing."
"Accepting your role was another thing we stressed," Rowan said. "I had 16 guys on my roster and I have nine spots, maybe 10 if I use a DH (designated hitter). So whether it's asking them to pinch run, just pitch or only get one at-bat a game, doing that to the best of their ability and buying into the betterment of the team."
The Tigers beat Mankato in the first round 2-1 and then advanced past Wells in the second round. Their third game they beat New Ulm Gold, who won an extra game in the loser's bracket to advance to the championship game and a rematch against Farmington. New Ulm was then able to win two straight against the Tigers, including a 10-inning 2-1 loss in the last game.
Rowan said that several players stood out during Farmington's playoff run.
"Alex Mach shut down Mankato on Thursday night, they were the best hitting team we faced all year including New Ulm, and he held them to one run," he said. "Jake Eifert pitched really well for us too. Those two definitely put us in the best spot to win."