Class 2A Baseball: Pioneers continue impressive run in 3 sports
In the last four years, the Pierz Pioneers have made about as many state tournament appearances as any school in Minnesota. During that stretch, the Pioneers played in four state football tournaments, four state wrestling tournaments and a state ...
In the last four years, the Pierz Pioneers have made about as many state tournament appearances as any school in Minnesota.
During that stretch, the Pioneers played in four state football tournaments, four state wrestling tournaments and a state baseball tournament.
State tournament appearance No. 10 occurs Thursday in the Class 2A baseball tournament when the third-seeded Pioneers play New London-Spicer in the quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Putz Field in St. Cloud.
"We've really been very fortunate as coaches, players and the entire community of Pierz, especially in the last 10 years. We've made some pretty impressive runs," said Pierz baseball head coach Danny Saehr, who's also an assistant in football. "We've had a special group of kids come through our programs lately. It starts with tremendous youth coaches and great parent support.
"This is an outstanding group of kids. As talented as they are in sports, they're even better kids. They're a true joy to coach."
Pierz (24-2), ranked third in 2A, will take on a Wildcats team that is 18-5 and has won 11 of its last 13 games. NLS' top three pitchers-Matt Spaulding, Evan Haugen and Will Roguske-are a combined 17-3.
NLS has enjoyed sustained success. In 14 sports, the Wildcats have made 74 overall state tournament appearances, winning eight state championships and finishing second 11 times.
"New London, regardless of the sport, always has good athletes," Saehr said. "They're there for a reason."
Pitching appears to be the Wildcats' strength. Matt Spaulding is 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 46 innings. Evan Haugen is 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 37.3 innings. Will Roguske is 6-2 with a 0.85 ERA in 49.2 innings.
At the plate, Roguske leads with his .422 average and has 13 RBIs. Wyatt White is next with a .371 mark and 12 RBIs.
The Pioneers have five players hitting over .300 led by Matt Kummet's .422 mark and 26 RBIs followed by Preston Rocheleau at .411 and 24 RBIs, Lane Girtz .393 and 12 RBIs, Luke Girtz .370 and five RBIs and Matt Tautges .350 and 13 RBIs.
"Our kids at the top are pretty good," Saehr said. "They're three- to four-year starters. That makes a big difference."
Pierz's pitching staff is equally as talented. Tautges is 10-1 with a 0.92 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. Rocheleau is 8-0 with a 0.16 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 56 innings. Kummet and Brett Kapsner are 2-0 and Alec Lochner 2-1. Pierz's team ERA is 1.02.
"Preston and Tautges, we call them 1 and 1A," Saehr said. "Preston has a lower ERA but both have been outstanding. They're just inning eaters, that's the biggest thing.
"And, when they go out there, they throw strikes. They also have strikeout stuff. They've come up with a number of big strikeouts with guys on base. They have anywhere from 3-4 pitches. Those two have been truly outstanding for us. It's easy for our kids to play behind them because of the pace they work at.
"Kummet has been pretty much the closer for this team since his freshman year. When he comes in, everyone's comfortable. He's been done there, done that. He's a rock behind the dish to start with. When he's asked to pitch, he's been a very good reliever."
Pierz finished third at state last year, routing Paynesville 13-0 before falling to Minnehaha Academy 4-2 in the semifinals. The Pioneers rebounded to beat Maple Lake 11-4 for third place.
The top four seeds from last year return. Minnehaha, No. 2 last year, is No. 1 this year. Belle Plaine, the No. 1 seed in 2016, is No. 2 this year. Pierz is seeded the same as last year with Maple Lake fourth again. Minnehaha beat Belle Plaine for last year's title.
"I think this, in the last how many years, is the most balanced and talented state tournament from top to bottom," Saehr said. "The rankings are what they are but seven of the top seven teams in the QRF (Quality Results Formula) made state. It's crazy. It's pretty impressive to see all those teams make it."
Class 1A quarterfinals
Warroad (19-6) vs. No. 1 Minnehaha Academy (24-2): Warroad is back for the first time since 2005. The Warriors scored two narrow victories over Perham in the section final.
No. 5 Rochester Lourdes (20-6) vs. No. 4 Maple Lake (22-2): This is the sixth state tournament for Rochester Lourdes, which captured championships in 1996 and 2002.
Duluth Marshall (18-5) vs. No. 2 Belle Plaine (20-2): Duluth is in the tournament for the first time. The Hilltoppers haven't lost since May 20, a stretch of eight victories.