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Inspired Len’s Automotive defeats Duluth Fastpitch to claim NAFA A Division World Series

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

2017 NAFA A Division World Series Champion Len’s Automotive of St. Paul, Minn. includes back row from left, Alex Farber, shortstop and NAFA A MVP, West St Paul;  Pat Hoban, right-field, St. Paul; Joe Ganther, pitcher, NAFA A Honorable Mention, Apple Valley; Tim Schuhwerck, pitcher and co-Most Outstanding Pitcher, St. Paul; Justin Olson, first base, St. Paul; Jim Washenberger first base and manager, St. Paul; Nick Leach, third base, Burnsville. Front Row, from left, Corey Noren, catcher and NAFA A Honorable Mention, St. Paul; Willie Faricy, second base and NAFA A All-World, Rosemount; Dave Zschokke, catcher, Little Canada; Chad Washenberger, pitcher and NAFA A All-World, St. Paul;  Kyle Pobanz, centerfielder and NAFA A All-World, St. Paul, and Chris Bogie, left-fielder, St. Paul. Photo By ANNIE SATTERLEE

FARGO – At the start of the season, Len’s Automotive was searching for some sort of positive message that would unite and inspire the team in every game, in every inning.

Kyle Pobanz and Nick Leach fashioned just the right slogans for the St. Paul squad to rally around.

“The start for each day was Kyle Pobanz telling the team, “why not us, why not now,” said Joe Ganther, who pitches and plays the infield. “And the rally cry for every inning was Nick Leach bellowing, “we’re winning every inning!”

    DOMINATING PERFORMANCE

Len’s Auto responded to the inspiring mantras by rolling through the NAFA A Division World Series undefeated and defeating Duluth Fastpitch, 5-1, in the title game at Northside Softball Complex, Sunday, Aug. 20.

Len’s clung to a 1-0 lead in the early going before breaking the game open with three runs in the fourth inning and a solo in the sixth.

In the fourth, Justin Olson got the offense started with a single, followed by Willie Faricy’s double and Nick Leach’s hit, with all three batsmen driving in a run.

    RELIEVER PUTS THE FIRE OUT

Duluth responded by loading the bases in the sixth on two hit batters and a single. A third hit batter brought in a run, but Tim Schuhwerck, called on to relieve starter Chad Washenberger, stopped the hemorrhaging by spinning a drop ball and getting a double play to end the inning.

Len’s got the run back in its half of the sixth on Olson’s sacrifice fly to deep centerfield that sent Pat Hoban trotting home. Hoban opened the inning with a triple to the base of the right-field fence.

Schuhwerck hurled a clean seventh and after his last pitch, Len’s Auto commenced to celebrating. In the previous five years of competing in the World Series, the highest Len’s Auto had ever finished was ninth.

Living up to Pobanz and Leach’s slogans surely helped in an inspirational way, but to win NAFA championships takes skillful gloves, arms and bats.

    LINEUP OF TOUGH OUTS

“We’ve always been strong on defense and pitching,” said first baseman and manager Jim Washenberger, “it’s the backbone of the team. But our hitting got hot here.”

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For the Olson’s and Duluth, a thriving time of men’s fastpitch

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

1988 ASA NATIONAL CHAMPION DULUTH STEWART TAYLOR PRINTING. Top from left: Dick Olson Manager, Jim Olson, Randy Hill, Mike Thomas, Brian Langeland, Corey Thomas, Paul Friesen, Brad Emanuel and Tom Olson. Bottom from left: Jerry Strange, Mike Morrissey, Bill Olson, Clay Kerr and Casey Frank. Team helper Mitch. Courtesy Photo

DULUTH, Minn. – Once upon a time a man could stand in the center of Minnesota and point to the east, west, north or south and as surely as the sun rises and sets, men’s fastpitch was being played in most cities and small towns of the state’s 87 counties.

That was the thriving times of the 1960s to 1980s.

Owatonna, St Paul, Minneapolis and Mankato? Booming. Winona and Rochester? Hot beds.

Scandia, Hastings, Red Wing, Lake Crystal, Wanamingo, St. James and Geneva? Teeming with teams, leagues and tournaments.

And up in the northern reaches of the state snuggled up to the western shore of Lake Superior, the game in Duluth was at its peak. That was back when Bill Olson started playing in 1973, barely a teenager.

“I started at 13 at Ordean Jr. High School,” said Olson, 56. “That was when they had fastpitch in the junior high schools. There were a lot of good teams in my era.”

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