Mother Nature is wreaking havoc on Minnesota baseball teams this week. While it has been an outstanding spring weather-wise, a rarity during the Minnesota high school baseball season, this past week has been cold, rainy and dreary. The good news for pitching-thin teams is it has given a number of teams a chance to rest their arms. The bad news is, those same teams will be forced to play multiple makeup games in the coming days.
Despite the recent blustery conditions, the 2010 prep baseball season is ready to hit the home stretch. Here is a look at some of the top teams, playmakers and stat leaders heading into action on May 14:
It's always a battle to emerge on top of the tough Northwest Suburban Conference. And right now, no team is playing better in that conference, and possibly in the state, than Centennial (Circle Pines). Head coach Lynn Buehner's team is 14-0 in league play and 15-0 overall. Centennial averages 12.2 runs per game and gives up only 2.5 runs per game.
The team is batting over .400 on the season, and that lethal offensive attack has been complemented with outstanding pitching and defense. Centennial made it to the 2009 AAA state tournament and is serious about making another run this year. Among the key players so far this season for the Cougars are many, including Christopher Anderson, Adam Lamere, Zach Fairbanks, Austin Malinowski, Bryan Billeadeau, Joshua Matheson, Ryan Reese and Jacob Kosak. The Cougars have five regular-season games remaining, including those against talented Osseo and Maple Grove. While this team appears to be on the verge of the NWSC title, the real goal is to make it back to the state tournament, and the pieces appear to be in place.
Classic Suburban standouts
Pick your week, pick your battle: There is never an easy game in the Classic Suburban Conference this season. St. Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights) currently leads the conference at 11-1 (13-2 overall), while South St. Paul has emerged as a team to watch at second place at 8-3, 10-3 overall. Hill-Murray (Maplewood), which at one time was ranked No. 3 in the state in AAA, is 9-4 and in third place, and 12-4 overall. Then you have a talented Tartan (Oakdale) team, at 8-5 in CSC action and 9-5 overall.
In the battle for the conference title, St. Thomas earned a big win over Hill-Murray, 7-6, on May 12. Each of these teams is averaging over 5.7 runs a game (STA 9.7, SSP 6.2, HM 7.5 and Tartan 5.7), so it's no surprise each team features players ranked among the Metro statistical leaders. Here is a look at some of those leaders:
Colin Coan, SSP - .562
Connor McCallum, Hill-Murray - .535
David Friberg, Tartan - .500
Sam Smith, South Saint Paul - .485
Phil Spock, Tartan - .467
Luc Henke, Hill-Murray - .465
In other statistics, McCallum is among the Twin Cities leaders in RBI with 22, while Spock has 19. Hill-Murray's Joe Knooihuizen has 13 RBI for the Pioneers. As for St. Thomas, many key players have stepped up this year, including Alex Jurich. Jurich has committed to play next year at the University of Illinois-Chicaco. He is hitting over .600 this years and has four home runs and five doubles for the Cadets.
Stillwater on top in Suburban East
Stillwater improved to 11-3 (12-3 overall) in the Suburban East Conference with a 4-3 win over Woodbury on Wednesday. That win helped Stillwater maintain a one-game lead over White Bear Lake in conference play. Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul) hosts Stillwater on Friday in a tough SEC clash; Cretin is 11-4 overall and 9-4 in the SEC.
On Wednesday, Stillwater was led by the offense of Jeremy Gillard, Derek Albertson, Aaron Bunton, Tony Nettleton, Andrew Nepp and Brandon Schuman. Nepp also came in and did a game job of ending a Royals rally, when in the fourth inning he entered the game with the bases loaded and one out and did not allow any runs. Stillwater will face White Bear Lake on Monday, so the next two games could play a big role in determining the SEC outcome. No matter what happens in conference action, it appears Stillwater, WBL and CDH will be factors in the upcoming playoffs.
St. Cloud Cathedral upset
St. Cloud Cathedral lost to Rocori (Cold Spring) on Saturday, marking the first loss of the season for the Crusaders. Still, it's been a banner season thus far for one of the state's top-ranked 2A teams. One player playing a key role in that is Nick Maiers. Maiers is hitting .457 with one home run, seven RBI, six doubles and two triples through 12 games. He's been equally effective on the mound, where he has six wins and an ERA of 0.69. He has 62 strikeouts on the season, which also ranks among state leaders.
Mulligan needs no repeat
Devin Mulligan is quietly having a very successful junior season. The Northland Eagles junior is hitting .452 with 26 RBI on the season for the 9-3 Eagles.
Thursday's top performers
There weren't many games across the state this week, but one game did get in southeastern Minnesota on Thursday. Chatfield defeated GMLOK 12-4 behind Mitch Narveson's two hits (including a triple) and two RBI. Caleb Leichtman was a bright spot in the loss for GMLOK, as he had four hits and four stolen bases.
Josh Hanson, Marantha Christian Academy - .605
Karl Grant, Math and Science Academy - .553
Richard Jubie, Esko - .540
Lucas Herd, Sibley East - .537
Kory Kiekhoefer, New Life Academy - .529
Dakota Rostad, Caledonia - .522
John Gideon, Eagan - .512
Brandon Finstuen - Pine Island .512
Ben Skelly, Lakeville North - .500
Beau Fandel, Forest Lake - .500
Elijah Easley, Minneapolis North - 21
Max Reinertsen, Esko - 16
Brandon Beck - Blackduck 15
Alec Kelly, Minneapolis South - 14
Carlton Littlejohn, Minneapolis North - 14