A Step Back In Time: John Ernster, Unknown to celebrity in 5 years

Written by Bob on January 16th, 2017

GREEN TERRACE ASA ALL-AMERICANS, from left, pitcher John Ernster; third baseman Doug Sauer; catcher Loren Benz, and first baseman Dick Teubner.

Green Terrace of Winona became the first Minnesota team to play in the inaugural ASA Class A Men’s Fastpitch National Tournament in 1975, taking second place with an 8-2 record. In 1988, Stewart Taylor of Duluth won the national title followed by Happy Chef of Mankato in 1995.

By BRUCE CLOSWAY / Sports Writer
Winona Daily News
(originally printed Sept. 3, 1975)

WINONA, Minn. – If anyone is considering doing a biographical study of a sports personality from in or around Winona, John Ernster has certainly qualified himself as a worthy subject.

And if choosing an appropriate title becomes a problem, how about, “You’ve Come A Long Way, John,” or “From Obscurity to National Acclaim In Five-Short Years.”

At the risk of sounding more like a relative or a publicity agent than a reporter, it should go without question that Ernster’s rapid rise to such a plateau of success is the type of story rarely matched by an individual in this area.

QUICK RISE TO ASA ALL-AMERICAN

Practically an unknown commodity in Winona when he first appeared as a pitcher for the Green Terrace fastpitch softball team five years ago, Ernster helped lead his club to the finals of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Class A Fastpitch Softball National Tournament this past holiday weekend.

Green Terrace, which won the Winona Class AA League title and then went on to capture the Minnesota ASA State and Northern Regional Class crowns in earning a berth in the national tournament, dropped a 2-1 decision to (Neal’s Truck Parts) Grand Rapids, Mich., Monday evening in the finals of the 37-team double elimination event in Hamilton, Ohio.

Ernster, 27, didn’t pitch for G.T. in the game against Grand Rapids, but after posting a 6-0 record in 42 innings in the tourney, he was one of four Green Terrace players named to the All-Tournament team.

TALENTED TEAMMATES

Joinging Ernster on the all-tourney squad were catcher Loren Benz, who tatted .419 and drove in nine runs, third baseman Doug Sauer, who hit .417 and scored 12 runs, and first baseman Dick Teubner, who finished with a .344 average.

G.T. won eight games of its 10 games in the tournament to finish the season with a 66-12 record. A special recognition banquet for Green Terrace and the Oasis Bar, which won the Minnesota State Class AA title, has been planned for Sept. 10 at the Oaks Supper Club.

Ernster, a native of Caledonia, earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from Winona State University in 1971. He only began throwing a fastpitch style six years ago for a team in Caledonia, and G.T. didn’t even have a team when he was residing at the Green Terrace Mobile Home Park while attending Winona State.

“I knew Green Terrace had formed a slowpitch team, so I asked Earl Nottleman (owner of Green Terrace) if he knew of any fastpitch teams that were looking for a pitch,” Ernster recalled.
“So Earl decided the team should join a fastpitch league instead, and I’ve been loyal to G.T. ever since.”

The current Green Terrace squad has been playing together since 1973, and it appears the team will remain together for several years to come. G.T. will be seeded directly into next year’s regional tourney as a result of winning this season’s event in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“Last year I really began to feel we had the potential to go all the way,” Ernster replied when asked if he thought the team had exceeded his expectations. “I’m surprised if that’s what you mean. We didn’t do anything this season that I didn’t think we were capable of.”

“The team played excellent defense all through the tournament in Hamilton,” he said. “I certainly can’t take all the credit for the games I managed to win. There were times I wasn’t as effective as I needed to be, but the defense really took care of me.”

MICHIGAN SQUAD PREVAILS

G.T. was forced to play 10 games (it would have been 11 had it beaten Grand Rapids in the first encounter Monday), and Ernster shared the pitching chores with Paul Fey and LeRoy Anderson, who threw for Club Midway and Mankato Bar, respectively, during the league season.

“Things started out kind of slow, and we really weren’t that impressed,” Ernster admitted when asked to assess the competition in the national tourney. “but once some of the teams were eliminated, it started to get rougher in a hurry.

“The tournament was very well organized…especially when considering it was the first ASA Class A tourney ever held,” explained Ernster. “Next year we’ll just have to go one step further that’s all.”

ERNSTER SETS HIGH GOALS

Ernster, who claims he had a personal goal of collecting 50 wins, finished the season with a 48-7 record and a remarkable 1.45 earned run average for 401 1/3 innings of work. He struck out 327 batters, notched 50 complete games, 16 of which were shutouts and three of which were no-hitters.

A married man with an expectant wife, Ernster had the following remarks about his spouse’s attitude toward his dedication to softball.

“My wife has never said one word to try and discourage me. In fact, I think she’s into softball almost as much as I am. She didn’t make the trip to Hamilton, and it’s probably a good thing she didn’t. The way things went, she might have had the baby right there.”

ASA Class A Men’s Fastpitch Champions

1975 – Neal’s Truck Parts Grand Rapids, MI
1976 – Millersville Merchants, Millersville, PA
1977 – Miami Sawaia’s Miami, FL
1978 – S & K Rigging Arcola, IL
1979 – Joaquin Const Modesto, CA
1980 – S.H. Good New Holland, PA
1981 – S.H. Good New Holland, PA
1982 – The Tee House Modesto, CA
1983 – Holiday Markets Chico, CA
1984 – Hudson Flames, Bakersfield, CA
1985 – ETV Trucking, Grand Rapids, MI
1986 – Tubbs & Son Electric, Manteca, CA
1987 – Jolly Molly Softball, Lebanon, PA
1988 – Stewart Taylor, Duluth, MN
1989 – Texas Flyers, Webster, TX
1990 – Marshall Jazz, Marshall, MO
1991 – Springers, Boulder, CO
1992 – DC Tire Roadrunners, Reading, PA
1993 – Bow Valley Travelers, Broken Bow, NE
1994 – DC Tire Roadrunners, Reading, PA
1995 – Happy Chef, Mankato, MN
1996 – Hy-Line Enterprises, Elkhart, IN
1997 – DC Tire Roadrunners, Reading, PA
1998 – DMS Knights, Fargo, ND
1999 – Texas Flyers, Houston, TX
2000 – All Season Patriots, Allentown, PA
2001 – N/A
2002 – Lyons, Fresno, CA
2003 – Barley Pop A’s, Minot, ND
2004 – McKie Sports, Oswego, NY
2005 – CR DeMarini Portland, OR
2006 – New Image, Mt. Horeb, WI
2007 – The Freight, Vandalia, IL
2008 – Italian Athletic Club, Stockton, CA
2009 – Lightning, Marshall, MI
2010 – Italian Athletic Club, Stockton, CA
2011 – Columbia River Rockies, Portland, OR / Vancouver, WA
2012 – New Image, Mt. Hoab, WI
2013 – www.Eventhelper.com, Grass Valley, CA
2014 – Sioux Falls Sox, Sioux Falls, SD
2015 – Cancelled
2016 – Class A discontinued, replaced by: (East / West Gold and Silver Open classes)

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