Altoona Legion coach Craig Walter knows his squad is fighting an uphill battle at the Eau Claire-based River City Classic.
That makes little mistakes in tight games all the more frustrating.
Altoona went ahead of highly-respected Eau Claire Pizza Hut/Post 53 early on Friday night but was unable to hold on in a 3-1 defeat. Less than 12 hours later, Altoona suffered another close loss, this time a 4-1 result against Winona to kick off the second day of the three-day tournament at Carson Park.
“We don’t have the depth to play up with these Division 1, higher-level teams,” Walter said. “We’re just not physically talented enough to sit here for seven innings against some of these (teams). ... We have to do things so perfectly. It makes it difficult.”
The meeting with Winona, the first of two outings for Altoona on Tuesday, was tied for much of the game after Altoona’s Nathan McMahon got Jake Nelson home from third on a liner to make it 1-1 in the top of the third.
Winona did the rest of its damage in the fifth. Sam Nascak scored the eventual game-winner when a throw from the outfield got away from Altoona at home, allowing him to jog in from third. A batter later, Ethan Ringo got Spencer Wright home from third on a single to shallow left.
Wright got home for the LeJetz final run, with Dayne Gamoke earning the RBI.
Altoona had a handful of opportunities to score outside McMahon’s timely single. Donovan Adrian was thrown out at home prior to the RBI in the third after he tried to make the most of a Nelson double. The team had a runner on third with two outs in the fourth, but Winona’s Parker Nelton got the strikeout.
Walter said the throwout at home was caused by a miscommunication. Adrian initially stopped running while rounding third, with Walter saying he likely heard him telling Nelson to stop at second.
“That’s a run that cost, plus it’s momentum,” he said. “Once momentum happens in baseball, a lot of things can change.”
With the competition Altoona is facing, Walter looks for the silver linings. Underclassman Kyle Rasmussen was strong on the mound, pitching all seven innings.
“We had a 15 year old out there throwing and he did a great job,” Walter said. “We’re excited about that for our future. We’re just going to keep playing that way. We’re going to play a lot of young guys and we’re going to develop them.”
It was also a much closer result than last week’s against Winona, a 12-4 loss.
Nelson went 2 for 3 with a double and a single, the only Altoona player with multiple hits. Adrian got on base twice with a walk and a bunt single.
Altoona concludes play at Carson Park in the middle of three games today against Marshfield Post 54. First pitch is set for 1:30 p.m.
“We know where we’re at,” Walter said.