Erik Deal, Dumont keep the dream going into state quarterfinals

By Eric Kraushar
ScoreMonster Contributor
erickraushar@gmail.com

The latest census in the tiny town of Dumont, just seven miles from the South Dakota border, numbers somewhere between 75 and 100 people. Guys like Erik Deal, who will end an impressive 25-year run with the Saints amateur baseball team after the season, don’t come around too often.

Deal said he’s listening to his body, and the morning after a game is when he feels it most. It’s time, even if right now he doesn’t want it to end, and Friday’s game showed he can still play it. Deal went full splits to stretch for a throw to end an inning and halt a scoring threat. Later on, he rose up above a runner to grab a throw from the catcher.

“My bones, my muscles, it takes a long time to get them going. My knees. But I’m going to miss it, no doubt. I’m going to miss these guys,” Deal said.

Dumont, the darling of the 2021 Class C Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament, winning twice, advancing to the final weekend, have continued the dream in 2022. If a 12th-inning walk-off win in the state opener on Aug. 28 wasn’t enough, the Saints advanced to the quarterfinals with a thrilling final out in a 3-2 decision over Stark Sept. 2 in Dundas.

A two-run lead, two outs in the ninth inning, runners on second and third base, a bloop single to center field sent the potential tying run around third base, headed for home. Dumont’s Patrick Kussatz’s throw was on the money, a short-hop snag by week two hero Mason Lampe, a tag of pinch runner Talan Helget of Stark, and the celebration was on.

WATCH THE FINAL PLAY HERE

“It’s unreal. You couldn’t write it up any better than this. All the excitement, all the adrenaline, it still doesn’t seem real. My heart is still pumping. I’m looking forward to Sunday,” Deal said.

For Dumont, reaching the final eight teams for the first time since 1974 – the tournament was just 16 teams then, the Saints losing 17-0 to eventual champion Red Wing in the second round – is more than making history. It’s a celebration of who they are, and where they come from.

The Land O’ Ducks League is 13 teams strong. Most teams come from towns much like Dumont; small, but mighty. “Everybody knows everybody and we’re like a tight-knit family out there,” Deal said.

Todd Woelfel didn’t pitch in the 2021 state tournament as a draftee for Dumont from Chokio, but his impact was felt throughout the team’s run.

“Todd came with us last year and we couldn’t have asked for a better draft pick. He coached first base literally every single inning. He embraced it. He was the guy out there giving fist bumps to everyone. He was the first guy out of the dugout to meet the guys coming off the field,” Deal said.

So, it was a no-brainer to draft Woelfel again following Dumont’s region championship win. Dumont eked out a 3-0 win over Woelfel this season. Afterward he joined them, sharing a few stories and a few laughs. That was the type of person he was.

Woelfel committed suicide on the day of the Region 9C championship; Aug. 13. He was just 29 years old.

Deal has carried his No. 17 Chokio jersey with him ever since. It rides in a seat next to him on the team’s charter bus to and from state games. The jersey is carried onto the field by Deal during starting lineups and the national anthem. It hangs on the bench in the team dugout. The entire team wears No. 17 stickers on their helmets.

“Todd was well loved around the league. Nobody could have said a bad word. That’s why it came as such a shock,” Deal said. “It’s been hard to say goodbye, but we know he’s still here with us.”

It is that bond, with teammates, with friends on the other side of the diamond, that makes stepping away so tough. Deal is leaving the Dumont team in the hands of other players going forward. Though he won’t be too far away.

“To me, it would be too hard being out not competing. I have faith in the guys that are going to take over. Jordon Roos, real good baseball guy. I will be there behind the fence cheering them on. And if we make state next year, I’m definitely getting on the bus with them. I’ll be the one supporting the local beer vendor and critiquing what these guys are doing wrong,” Deal laughed.

COMPLETE GAME

Jordon Roos led Dumont to a Friday-night win over Loretto in the 2021 Minnesota Amateur Baseball State Tournament with a 161-pitch complete game. The right-hander did it again one week and one year later, throwing 152 pitches over nine innings to send the Saints to the fourth round on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. against the winner of Buckman and Waconia.

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