May 24—WILLMAR — The Willmar Rails are likely the Corn Belt League's youngest team, with the majority of the roster having graduated from high school in five years or less.
It makes sense then that two of the youngest Rails had a lot to do with Sunday's 7-5 amateur baseball win over the Raymond Rockets.
Sam Etterman and Ian Koosman, both Willmar High School juniors, provided key hits in beating Raymond, one of the Corn Belt's top teams, at Bill Taunton Stadium.
Etterman had a two-out, two-run single in the sixth and Koosman contributed an RBI single in the eighth.
Both are contributors to the Willmar Cardinals' state-ranked team. And both were counted on for their contributions Sunday.
"It is a different world," Etterman said of amateur ball. "It seems a little slow sometimes.
"It's definitely a different scenery with the players. It's kind of hard to explain."
Etterman batted lead-off and played left field. He went 2-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs.
"It's a little different," Koosman said. "I like hanging out with the guys.
"I've definitely learned a few things. It's a different atmosphere, but it's a lot of fun.
"It is a little more laid back."
Koosman went 2-for-4 with a double, a run and two RBI. He played a flawless game at shortstop and batted ninth.
"I've been watching that little Koosman kid for years," Raymond manager Butch Steen said. "He's got a batting cage at home that he's been using since he was knee-high to a grasshopper."
Both were fully aware of the importance of a win over Raymond, a perennial state tournament contender that has a 2016 state title on its resume.
"The only reason they know is because I know," Rails manager Dustin Overcash said. "Every single guy with 'Willmar' on their chest knows it's going to be the biggest game we play all year."
The Rails won in 2020 at Raymond for the first time in eons. Overcash said "It might have been 15 or 20 years since we had beaten Raymond."
It also came after the Rails suffered a 19-6 loss Friday at Marshall. The game was called after six innings because the lights went out and never came back on.
Sunday was different. Willmar played well defensively and pitched well enough to thwart a powerful Rockets' lineup.
Leading the way was Koosman, who stung the ball in all four trips to the plate. He doubled in the second inning, nearly hitting the fence in left-center field. He then was out in his next two plate appearances, though both balls were scorched. In the eighth, he smacked a hard ground ball up the middle off a drawn-in Raymond infield, scoring Ashton Gregory, who had doubled. That plated Willmar's seventh run.
"It felt good," Koosman said. "I used to play with some of their guys back in the day (Eli Nelson being one). Their dad (Zack Nelson) was my coach.
"And Tyler Steen (the Rockets' catcher), I've worked with him in the winter. I know a lot of their guys. They're a good team."
Raymond scored twice in the eighth and once in the ninth. The Rails needed Zak Madsen to get the final two outs to save it with the bases loaded.
"We had a couple base-running boo-boos that cost us a run," Steen said. "It happens."
Willmar plays the Marshall A's at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bill Taunton Stadium, then is host to the Sacred Heart Saints at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Raymond plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Litchfield to face the Blues in an exhibition game.
Corn Belt League
Raymond 000 200 021-5 8 1
Willmar 031 000 201-7 9 1
Hitting — Raymond: Eric Hulterstum 1-4 BB-2, Tyler Steen 1-4 2B BB,, Paxton Nelson 1-3 r-2 bb sac sb, Justin Koenen 0-2 r bb-3, Caleb Dittmarson 0-3 r bb hbp,Tanner Bauman 3-3 r rbi bb-2 sb-2, Brett Swanson 2-4 rbi-3 bb sb ... Willmar: Sam Etterman 2-4 rbi-3, Adam Herman 1-4, Zak Madsen 1-3 r bb, Jack Baumgart 1-3 r rbi bb, Gunnar Banks 1-2 r rbi 2b, Andrew Baumgart 0-1 r bb, Ashton Gregory 1-3 r 2b, Sam Huseby 0-0 r bb, Jayden Dierenfeld 0-2 sac-2, Ian Koosman 2-4 r rbi-2 2b ...
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Raymond: Alex Lotthammer (L) 2 1/3-5-4-4-2-4, John Sawatzky 3 2/3-2-2-2-2-4, Tanner Bauman 2-2-1-1-1-2 ... Willmar: Dierenfeld (W) 6-5-2-2-7-3, Patrick Courtney 2-2-2-1-2-1, Adam Herman 1/3-1-1-1-3-0, Zak Maden (Sv) 2/3 -0-0-0-0