The Sleepy Eye Indians qualified for the State Tournament for the 21st time this last weekend and Stark qualified for the State Tournament for the first time since 2012.
This weekend in Delano on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 17 and 18, the Sleepy Eye Indians and the Stark Longhorns will be two of three representatives of Region 2C in action at the State Amateur Baseball Tournament. New Ulm received a bye and will be in action next Saturday, August 24.
The Longhorns qualified for the State Tournament by going 4-1 in the Region 2C playoffs, while the Indians went 3-2.
New Ulm qualified for the State Tournament for the 18th time and the first time since 2015. The Brewers also bolstered their already stout pitching staff by selecting Lamberton’s Johnny Pistulka in the Regional draft. Lamberton missed the State Tournament for the first time in eight seasons.
The Indians play the Cokato Kernels on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 11 a.m. in Delano. The Kernels are in their fifth year of existence and this is their first apperance at State.
Sleepy Eye Indians
The Indians qualifying for the State Tournament is their 21st appearance all-time. This also marks the fifth time in nine seasons the Indians have made the State Tournament and the first time they’ve qualified in back-to-back seasons since 2003 when they made appearances in four straight seasons beginning in 2000.
The Indians are a team that will grind you up and down their entire lineup. With arguably the deepest one-through-nine in the Tomahawk East, they look to make some noise once again in the State Tournament. Last season, the Indians got hot at the right time and won two games by defeating Elrosa and Fergus Falls last year at State before falling to Hutch 6-0.
With an overall record of 15-13, settling for middle of the pack in the Tomahawk East League standings, the Indians were out to prove they belong in the upper echelon of teams in the league. The Indians advanced to the State Tournament by winning three games in the Region playoffs.
The Indians defeated Hanska Tuesday, Aug. 6 9-0 behind a complete game shutout from lefty starter Alex Sellner. Following Sellner on Wednesday against Lamberton was Searles Grizzlies draftee Mark Schommer. The young righty got stronger as the game went on and went seven innings, limiting the Longsox to two runs in a 9-2 Indians win. Former Indian and Leavenworth draftee Matt Helget finished the final two innings in the win.
The Indians relied on young pitching in Regions from strong performances from Mark Schommer and Jacob Berg, while also relying on Alex Sellner in the teams three regional wins. Sellner led the Indians in innings pitched this season with 77 and 1/3 innings with an ERA of 4.19 and a record of 4-5 overall while converting two saves in as many chances.
Andrew Woitas led the team in ERA with 2.49 in 21 and 2/3 innings pitched with a record of 2-0.
The Indians offensively as a team have hit .288 up to this point, including .293 with runners in scoring position. Joey Walter was the Tribe’s leader in batting average by hitting .369 and adding a career high in stolen bases with 18. Walter also led the team in RBIs with 25. Walter capitalized on many opportunities compiling a batting average of .484 with runners in scoring position.
Trailing Walter was Alan Woitas and Matt Mielke who respectively hit .351 and .347.
The Indians also had six hitters with 25 or more at bats compile an average higher than .325 with runners in scoring position.
If the Indians are to make any noise at the State Tournament, they are going to need to rely on their savvy veterans and young players continuing to prosper in high leverage situations. Stay tuned into next week’s Herald-Dispatch to catch up on the Indians State Tournament appearance.
The Longhorns find themselves back at the State Tournament for the first time since 2012. It is the organization’s 13th appearance all-time in the State Tournament.
First-year Manager Dusty Mangen continued his luck in “first-year” traditions. In Mangen’s first seasons of coaching St. Mary’s baseball and baseball, VFW, and now Amateur, his team’s have qualified for the State Tournament. Mangen knows it’ll be tough, but hopes to continue the magic. “State is tough. There are lots of good teams with lots of great pitchers,” he says. “We need to put the game into its simplest terms; throw strikes, play defense, and hit the ball hard. If we can do those things and get a little luck on our side hopefully we can make a deep tournament run.”
Stark will look to combat that great pitching with great pitching of their own, led by Jon Kopacek. Kopacek led the Longhorns on the mound as the team’s horse as he finished the season with a record of 9-0 and an ERA of 2.61. Jon also allowed just 21 earned runs all season. Mangen appreciates Kopacek’s rise in ability this season while also having the dawg mentality in wanting the ball in big games. “Jon has been nails for us ever since he became a regular in the rotation. This season he has taken his game to a whole new level. The key to his success is control, both physically and mentally. Pitching wise he throws it where he wants and most importantly he wants the ball in our biggest games.”
Offensively coming into the season, Stark had a hole they needed to be filled. Zach Haala was given the opportunity to embrace that spot and never looked back.
Haala led off the Longhorn lineup and manned third base. Haala was second on the team in average hitting .345 and was second on the team with eight stolen bases. Mangen wasn’t the only observer noticing Haala’s improvements after a season at Bethel University.
“The improvements he made after a year of college ball is great to see and he really works his tail off to make himself the best ballplayer he can be. His defense and speed from the top of the order have been a huge key to our success.”
Stark faces the Watkins Clippers Sunday morning at 11 a.m. in Delano.