Mid-season baseball report cardsPublished 9:07am Thursday, May 5, 2011
Column: Second Thoughts
While we’re midway through the high school baseball season’s calender, most area teams haven’t played half of their games yet. Still, here are the grades the area’s top three teams receive for their work so far:
Albert Lea Tigers (8-2)
The Albert Lea Tigers baseball team ranks sixth in the Big Nine Conference in runs scored per game (4.9). After scoring a season-high 11 runs against Faribault on April 14, the Tigers lost two of their next three games while mustering runs totals of 1, 1 and 0. Since then, the Tigers have won two straight on a combined 13 runs. They’ll need to continue that production in order to win a conference championship.
Despite having a middle infield made up of a ninth-grader and a sophomore, the Tigers have been solid in the field in nearly every game this season. The team allows only 2.6 runs per game — best in the Big Nine — and has held opponents to two or fewer runs in half of their wins. Against Rochester Mayo on Tuesday, the Tigers committed an error on the first play of the game but played perfect defense through the final 20 outs. The only blemish on the Tigers’ defensive resume this season was a six-error game in a loss to Rochester Century on April 25.
This is where the Tigers shine the brightest. Albert Lea has arguably the best 1-2 punch on the mound in the Big Nine this season in Aaron Klatt and Cole Sorenson. Both pitchers have given the Tigers a chance to win in every game this season and the experienced seniors raise their game with opposing runners in scoring position. With Klatt and Sorenson, the Tigers can beat anybody in the state. If the team’s offense finds consistency, Albert Lea should advance to and make noise at the state tournament. The Tigers have little depth behind their two aces, though.
A surprising sweep by Rochester Century is the only thing keeping the Tigers from having the best record in the state right now. The team is 1/2 game behind Rochester John Marshall in the Big Nine standings but is favored to win the conference going forward. If this senior-led team can stay healthy, it should earn at least a No. 2 seed in the Section 1AAA tournament (behind Red Wing) and have a good shot at a state tournament berth.
Glenville-Emmons Wolverines (6-4)
The Glenville-Emmons Wolverines baseball team has put up some crooked runs total this season. They’ve also been shutout two times. Finding consistency skill remains key for the Wolverines as they try to secure a top seed in June’s Section 1A tournament. Tyler Woodside and Spencer Kral continue to lead the Wolverines offense, which ranks third in the high-scoring, six-team Southeast Conference with 7.6 runs per game.
The Wolverines defense has been hit and miss this season — sometimes literally. The team has peppered five- and six-error games among solid defensive outings. When the Wolverines commit one or fewer errors, they usually win. The Wolverines have averaged one error in their last three wins and 4.7 in their last three losses.
Luckily for the Wolverines, they have one of the most dominant pitchers in Class A baseball. Tyler Woodside gives Glenville-Emmons a chance to win every game and while opposing teams have been able to score on him, he’s often tagged with very few earned runs. Woodside is an experienced senior who pitched for Albert Lea’s VFW team last season. The Wolverines have good depth behind Woodside with their No. 2 starter Spencer Kral and reliever Caleb Schumaker.
Talking with Wolverines seniors before the start of the season, their goal was to advance deep into the section tournament. As it stands now, the Wolverines will likely receive a No. 4 seed and play at home against the No. 5 seed in the tournament’s opening round. If that’s the case, the Wolverines will almost certainly play currently undefeated Randolph, one of the state’s best teams, in the second round. The Wolverines must shore up their offensive and defensive consistency before then.
United South Central Rebels (5-4)
The United South Central Rebels baseball team scored 23 runs against New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva on April 25. Before that, they averaged less than three per game. While the Rebels’ offense has been inconsistent over the course of the season, it has improved in their last five games. In their five wins this season, the Rebels actually have 10 less hits than runs and average 9.4 runs to 7.4 hits. And it’s not the 23-run, 16-hit win over NRHEG that skews those numbers. The Rebels have as many or more hits than runs in three of their five wins. In the other two: just one more hit than run. That means the Rebels are receiving timely hitting and smart baserunning while taking advantage of opposing pitcher’s and defensive’s mistakes.
The Rebels defense has been decent all season, playing errorless ball at times but committing as many as five errors in other games. The Rebels average around two errors per game and allow 4.7 runs per game — middle-of-the-road for the nine-team Gopher Conference.
Pitching was a big question mark for the Rebels this season following the departure of Tribune co-Player of the Year Nick Fure. Senior Anthony Stenzel has stepped up and filled in just fine. Without the ability to have strikeout totals in the high teens like Fure, Stenzel can still dominate on the mound, throwing 10-plus strikeouts while walking a few. Stenzel has been on fire lately with a 10 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio in his last three wins. The Rebels have decent depth behind Stenzel with No. 2 pitcher Dustin Dylla.
After a 1-4 start to the season, the Rebels have won four of their last five games and climbed out of the basement of the Gopher Conference and into fifth place. The Rebels have a solid 4-1 record against Section 2A opponents so far this season and play the section-best Lake Crystal-Wellcome-Memorial Knights on Friday. If Stenzel continues throwing with a hot arm, the Rebels could find themselves a win or two away from the state tournament come this postseason.