State Baseball: Two teams ready to make noise in Class 2A state tournament
Aitkin and Wadena-Deer Creek ready to play in Class 2A state tournament Tuesday, June 15
It took Aitkin and Wadena-Deer Creek both the second game of their respective section finals to make it to the Class 2A state tournament.
W-DC fought its way back in the loser’s bracket of Section 8-2A after losing to Perham in the winner’s bracket semifinals.
The Wolverines faced Perham again in the section finals and needed two wins over the Yellowjackets to reach state.
Behind pitchers Josh Dykhoff and Tony Kreklau, W-DC shutout Perham in Game One of the section final 5-0 to force a second game.
In Game Two, it took nine innings for the Wolverines to dispatch Perham 3-2 to reach the state tournament.
“The game itself was a rollercoaster,” W-DC head coach Kyle Dykhoff said. “There were times where you thought, ‘OK, this is going to happen,’ and then you’d turn around and you were on your heels and possibly done. The feeling at the end was jubilation.”
Aitkin had more wiggle room than W-DC in Section 7-2A. The Gobblers were the champions of the winner’s bracket and needed to beat Eveleth-Gilbert of the loser’s bracket just once to reach state.
Eveleth-Gilbert beat Aitkin in Game One of the section finals 13-0 to force a second game, but Aitkin regrouped and defeated them 14-2 in Game Two to return to state.
“At the time we had won 14 in a row and sometimes you don’t play your best and that first game we definitely didn’t,” Aitkin head coach Jeremy Janzen said. “But we hit the reset button and our senior leadership paid off and they took care of business in Game Two.”
W-DC (25-3) got seeded four in the Class 2A State Tournament and will play fifth-seeded Plainview-Elgin-Millville (21-3) in the state quarterfinals 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, at Putz Field in St. Cloud.
“We are super excited about the opportunity,” Kyle Dykhoff said. “We’ve been really close and finally got over the top to get down there.”
Aitkin (21-5) went unseeded and will play No. 2 seed Albany (22-3) in the quarterfinals 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, at Putz Field.
The Wolverines are led by their strong hitters at the top of lineup with Kreklau, Josh Dykhoff and Payton Rondestvedt are all hitting above .474 for W-DC headed into the state tournament.
Kreklau leads the team in average, slashing .494, and has anchored the leadoff spot for the Wolverines all season. He also leads the team in stolen bases with 12 and has tallied 13 doubles and two triples.
Rondestvedt has found himself in the cleanup spot for W-DC and is second on the team in RBIs with 36. He leads the team in hits with 46 which is one ahead of Josh Dykhoff and two ahead of Kreklau.
“Those are our three leaders offensively,” Kyle Dykhoff said. “Ironically, all three of them have broken the single-season record for hits in W-DC and I guess we will see who ends up with it when the season is done.”
Josh Dykhoff leads the team in extra-base hits with 14 doubles and two triples. He will also be on the mound for W-DC in its quarterfinal game against PEM because Kyle Dykhoff said he’s shown himself to be a real ace for the Wolverines.
Rondestvedt is the other pitcher that Kyle Dykhoff could use in relief. Josh Dykhoff posts a team-leading 1.26 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 55.2 innings. Rondestvedt isn’t far behind with a 1.47 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 57.1 innings.
Kyle Dykhoff said he expects to see a left-hander on the mound for PEM.
“We are just going to go there and play the same game we’ve played all season long,” he said. “Be there on every pitch, throw strikes and have some quality at-bats.”
W-DC is also one of three Park Region Conference teams that made it to the state tournament. Sebeka and New York Mills each made the Class 1A state tournament.
“We got a deep conference and our area has good baseball,” Kyle Dykhoff said. “There’s a good summer program and kids are committed to playing little league and Babe Ruth (league) that helps develop good baseball.”
Janzen said he didn’t know who he put on the mound for Aitkin’s quarterfinal game against Albany.
Logan Olson leads the Gobblers in innings pitched with 38.2 and posts a team-leading 0.91 ERA with 48 strikeouts. Carson Kullhem could be another option for Janzen as he poses a 1.08 ERA in 26 innings with 23 strikeouts.
Joey Simonson has also carried the bulk of the load for Aitkin on the mound with 27.2 innings pitched.
“We’ll make our decision when we get a little closer to game time,” Janzen said. “We have a couple guys who we can throw out there and definitely win us a game.”
The Gobblers are really dangerous in the batter’s box with two of their starters hitting over a .500 average at the plate.
Olson leads the team with a .569 average in 58 at-bats. Jake Ince leads the team in hits with 44 and posts a .564 average. Ince also leads Aikin with 11 doubles, four triples and 44 RBIs.
Landon Janzen has hit for .480 and tallied 35 RBIs in 75 at-bats for the Gobblers this season. Caiden Kjelstrom has tallied the most runs for Aitkin with 44 and has hit .405 with a team-leading 25 walks in the leadoff spot for the Gobblers.
“We’ve had some really good hitters in the past, but the thing about this team is that they are deep one through nine,” Jeremy Janzen said. “If one guy makes an out with runners on base the other guys will pick them up. We could draw out of a hat where we have guys hit in the lineup because they are that good.”
Jeremy Janzen knows it’ll be a battle against Albany.
“They are deep on the mound and an experienced team,” he said. “We played them when this team was younger and it was back and forth. Our game plan is to throw strikes, play defense and have some timely hitting.”
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.
Class 2A State Tournament
Matchups: Aitkin vs No. 2 Albany at 2:45 p.m.; No. 4 Wadena-Deer Creek vs. No. 5 Plainview-Elgin-Millville at 5 p.m.
Where: Putz Field in St. Cloud