Cold Spring Powerhouse

LOOKING BACK: Cold Spring emerges as state powerhouse with 1973 title

In 1973, Cold Spring found itself in the midst of a six-year run to the state tournament and laid the foundation of what has developed into one of the most decorated organizations in Minnesota amateur baseball.

The Springers have a record 59 state tournament appearances and nine state titles, but in 1973 they clinched their second state championship and first since 1955.

Cold Spring finished runner-up in 1970 and met another surging organization in Dassel-Cokato for the 1973 title.

The Dassel-Cokato Saints formed in 1966 but achieved success quickly with a Class B championship in 1968. Joe Harmala earned tournament MVP honors that year after winning two games and allowing one earned run for an ERA of 0.52 in 17 innings pitched. He also struck out 15 hitters and hit .435 at the plate. 

In the 1970 tournament, Cold Spring’s Bill Huls earned tournament MVP honors despite the Springers falling to Deer Creek 8-7 in the championship game. Huls won three games in the tournament and allowed nine earned runs on 18 hits in 26 1/3 innings for an ERA of 3.07 while striking out 37 hitters.

The 1973 Minnesota Baseball Association amateur baseball state tournament saw a rise in attendance from previous years. Held in Jordan, the tournament drew 12,716 fans, more than 4,000 fans from the previous year when Wadena hosted the tournament and the best figure since the 1969 tournament that Jordan hosted. 

Don Nierengarten, a draftee from St. Joseph and former St. John’s University pitcher, earned 1973 tournament MVP honors for Cold Spring after winning three games and allowing one run on seven hits in 23 innings of work for an ERA of 0.39. St. Joseph and Cold Spring had a good rivalry established at that time and Nierengarten had become a nemesis of the Springers. Cold Spring, however, didn’t hesitate when it had the option to draft him for the state tournament.

Nierengarten started against Red Wing Sept. 5 in a 10-2 victory and limited the Aces to five hits, starting opposite of Red Wing pitcher Bob Turnbull, a former University of Minnesota pitcher.

Four days later, on Sept. 9, Nierengarten entered the game for Cold Spring against Mayer in the fifth inning with the Springers trailing 2-1. He allowed an unearned run to make it 3-1 but Cold Spring scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning en route to a 7-3 victory.

Nierengarten got the ball again in the championship game that night against Dassel-Cokato and he allowed his first earned run in 22 innings of work in a 3-1 victory over the Saints where he scattered seven hits. The only blemish came when he allowed an opposite field home run to Jon Wilkens in the top of the second inning to give Dassel-Cokato a 1-0 lead. Cold Spring tied the game in the bottom half of the inning after Steve Hansen doubled and Paul Bell hit a sacrifice fly to score him.   

Springers catcher Jeff Neutzling drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the third inning and finished 2-for-4. With two outs, Andy Rausch doubled and John Rausch walked to set the table for Neutzling, who doubled to score Andy Rausch.

In the fifth inning, Cold Spring added a run when Dave Bell singled, moved to second on a bunt by Andy Rausch and got to third after a John Rausch single to left. A throw went to third and Rausch broke for second, leading the D-C third baseman to fire to second base. Bell sprinted home to beat the throw from the second baseman.

Both teams overcame adversity to reach the title game. Cold Spring trailed 3-1 against Mayer before scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth en route to a 7-3 win in the semifinals. Dassel-Cokato defeated Crookston 7-6 in 11 innings in the other semifinal.

Nierengarten, Bill Huls, Dave Bell and Neutzling, a draftee from Avon, earned all-tournament selections.


Called into action

Initially Cold Spring intended to start Nierengarten in the championship game should it get there, but the Springers called him to finish out the Mayer game. 

“My mother and father didn’t come to the game because they heard I came into the game in the morning,” Nierengarten said. “When I got home, they just couldn’t believe it.”

The championship celebration made things interesting for Nierengarten the following morning when he had to be in Minneapolis at 8 a.m. for a dental school class.

“Everything came together,” Nierengarten said. “They’re just scrappy ball players, really disciplined. It was really fun to play with those guys.”


Dassel-Cokato dazzles in fourth trip to state 

Dick’s Place from Columbia Heights had claimed the 1972 state title but Dassel-Cokato knocked them off 9-4 in the quarterfinals. Dick’s Place reached the quarterfinals after Jerry Wickman threw a no-hitter against Marshall in a 2-0 win with 15 strikeouts. Wickman won tournament MVP honors in 1972 after winning three games and allowing three earned runs in 22 innings for an ERA of 1.23. He allowed just four hits in the tournament and struck out 41 batters. He also went 7-for-16 for .438 average at the plate.

Crookston had reached the state tournament the past five years and finished third in 1972 but Dassel-Cokato escaped with a 7-6, 11-inning win in the semifinals to reach the title game. A wild pitch by Crookston’s Herb Hasz with two outs in the 11th inning allowed Gary McKay to score the winning run for Dassel-Cokato.


Quarterfinal quarrel

Cold Spring’s Bill Huls found himself on the other end of a butt-kicking in the quarterfinals even though the Springers advanced with a 6-4 win over St. Augusta.

In a 4-4 game in the top of the eighth inning, Huls hit Gussies starting pitcher Dick Weber in the elbow with a pitch with Weber in the batter’s box. It forced Weber out of the game and Cold Spring scored two runs off reliever Jim Tomczik in the bottom of the eighth to win.

Following the game, the wife of St. Augusta’s manager found Huls and delivered a swift kick to his rear end because she was so upset with him hitting Weber, Huls said. 

From 1970 through 1976, only one class of amateur baseball remained. In 1977, Class A and B emerged.




Cold Spring 3, Dassel-Cokato 1

Dassel-Cokato 010 000 000—1 7 2

Cold Spring 011 010 00x—3 9 1

Harmala and Wilkens; Nierengarten and Neutzling.


Dassel-Cokato (1) AB R H

Erickson 4 0 0

Wessman 4 0 2

Isaacson 4 0 1

Wilken 4 1 1

McKay 4 0 0

Borg 2 0 2

Harmala 2 0 0

Dokken 3 0 0

Hagen 3 0 1


Totals 30 1 7


Cold Spring (3) AB R H

D. Bell 4 0 2

A. Rausch 3 1 1

J. Rausch 3 0 1

Neutzling 4 0 2

Roske 4 1 2

Hanson 4 0 2

P. Bell 2 0 0

J. Bell 2 0 0

Nierengarten 3 0 0


Totals 29 3 10


WP—Nierengarten. LP—Harmala. RBIs—Wilken, Neutzling, P. Bell.

Check out additional content below