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Class 2A Baseball: Pioneers hope to reverse 2016 outcome

Pierz Pioneer Lane Girtz hits during the Section 2A quarterfinals against New London-Spicer in St. Cloud. Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch

It will be a rematch of last year's state semifinals when the Pierz Pioneers take on the Minnehaha Academy Redhawks for the Class 2A championship at 1 p.m. Monday at Target Field in Minneapolis.

The Redhawks won that game 4-2 overcoming numerous weather delays at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud. Minnehaha scored four runs in the third inning made them stand up for the victory.

Minnehaha's Alex Evenson stroked two hits and drove in a run in that game. Alex Fedje-Johnson pitched a 4-hit complete game and struck out nine. Pierz's Matt Tautges collected a hit and scored both Pioneer runs.

Last year Minnehaha was the 2A tournament's No. 2 seed and went on to upset top-seeded Belle Plaine 5-1 for the championship at Target Field. This year the Redhawks are the No. 1 seed and Pierz is again the third seed.

Minnehaha (25-2) entered this year's 2A tournament with a .322 team batting average while its pitchers had limited the opposition to a .204 mark.

Evenson led the Redhawks at the plate with a .403 mark and 23 RBIs. On the mound, he was 5-0 with a 1.51 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 32 innings.

Kenny Kiratli was hitting at a .388 clip with 20 RBIs. Bennett Theisen was at .357 and 16 RBIs, John Goth .356 and 18 RBIs and Jordan Alexander .337 and 33 RBIs.

Brock Brumley had been the Redhawks' ace with a 10-1 record and 1.04 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 60 innings. Theisen was 5-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 46 whiffs in 43 innings.

From April 12 to May 18, the Redhawks won 15 consecutive games. They are on an 8-game roll following a 10-5 win over Warroad in the 2A quarterfinals and an 8-4 victory over fourth-seeded Maple Lake in the semifinals.

Pierz, playing in the first state championship game in program history, is 26-2 after a thrilling 1-0 win over Duluth Marshall in the 2A semifinals Friday. Matt Tautges supplied the game-winning single with two out in the bottom of the seventh. The senior also pitched a 4-hit shutout with three strikeouts and one walk. He retired eight consecutive batters at one point.

Entering the state tournament, the Pioneers had five players hitting over .300 led by Matt Kummet's .422 mark and 26 RBIs. Preston Rocheleau was at .411 with 24 RBIs, Lane Girtz .393 and 12 RBIs, Luke Girtz .370 and five RBIs and Tautges .350 and 13 RBIs.

Pierz's pitching staff features Tautges who is 11-1. He entered the tournament with a 0.92 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. Rocheleau is 9-0. He had a 0.16 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 56 innings. Kummet, the Pioneers' closer, and Brett Kapsner are 2-0 and Alec Lochner 2-1. Pierz's team ERA was 1.02.

The Pioneers won their first nine games this spring. After a 4-3 loss to Maple Lake May 4, the rattled off 12 straight victories before losing for the only other time this season, 9-1 to Foley in the third game of the Section 6-2A tournament. Pierz has won five straight entering Monday's state final.

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