By Jim Bastian
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - The 2014 Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Class C Tournament kicks off this weekend for the Lamberton Longsox and the Hanska Lakers while the Region 2C champion New Ulm Brewers will get a bye in the first round.
New Ulm, 23-7, will not play its first game until Friday, Aug. 22 in Jordan. The Brewers are led a solid pitching staff led by Mitch Kelly, who is 8-1 with a stellar 0.95 ERA. He has 105 strikeouts in 75 innings and opposing teams are hitting .172 against the righhander.
Chris Cariveau has posted a a perfect 7-0 mark and an ERA of 1.80. Brewers manager Al For said Cariveau is "a big-game pitcher no matter who the opponent."
Zach More rounds of the top three pitchers. He is a 5-1 record with an ERA of 0.89.
Hitting-wise, the Brewers are paced by Jason Shaul, who is hitting a robust .477 and leads the team with three home runs.
Judd Davis, who will start at shortstop, has a .436 average hitting from the No. 9 spot in the lineup.
Veteran Brady Ranweiler has a .394 batting average with Garrett Fischer at .392 while leading the team in stolen bases with nine.
Matt Suess, who joined the Brewers this year after playing with Hanska last year, and Cory Ranweiler round out the top hitters for New Ulm.
While the Brewers are a strong team, Flor knows that the state tournament has not been kind to teams from Region 2C in the past.
"We [Region 2C] have not done well since Hanska took second in 2009," Flor said. "This year we have an incredible offensive team but we have not been consistent enough."
Zach Hoffmann, Cory Ranweiler, Davis and Landon Rewitzer round out the Brewers' infield first-to-third with an outfield of Shaul in left field, Aaron Pfaff in center field and Fischer in right field.
"This is the best outfeld that I have had," Flor said. "Very little falls in for hits or gets in the gap."
But still it comes back to the lack of success of 2C since 2009. Flor said that the monkey "is on our own back."
"We feel like we have possibly the best team that we have put together in quite some time - we are playing well going into the state tournament In the past we have always seemed to stutter-step into the tournament," Flor said. "We feel this will carry over. We feel like we have a decent draw this year."
The Brewers will face the winner of the game between St. Benedict and Loretto at 5 p.m. on Aug. 22 in Jordan.
And if Loretto wins, it would bring back a reunion of sorts. Lucas and Jake Steinbach, son of former Kaiserhoff and Twins' player Terry Steinbach, play for Loretto.
Flor said that the key for the Brewers in the state will be errors.
"They have killed us in the past in state tournament games," Flor said. "We cannot have them. In single elimination, you cannot have them."
Flor said that he will start Kelly in their first game.
Lamberton Long Sox
Lamberton comes in with a 23-11 record as it prepares to face Green Isle at 5 p.m. on Saturday in Belle Plaine.
Lamberton manager Derrick Jenniges said that this season has been a turnover year.
"We have played without some of our key players from a year ago and it took a while for some of our younger players to figure it out," Jenniges said. "So I would say this has been a year of patience and persistence for us, sticking to the way that we have played the game in Lamberton in the past."
Jenniges said his team has had consistent pitching and good defense.
Lamberton is led by Shane Scholberg, who is 9-2 on the year with an ERA of 1.50.
"He has been our horse all year," Jenniges said. "He is a solid lefthanded pitcher who has been consistent for us for the past five years."
And the pitching needs to be solid for Lamberton.
"We have not scored a lot of runs this year," Jenniges said. "Our top two hitters have been Neil Eichten at .350 and Blake Altermatt also at .350. Jake Wahl has also gotten hot lately."
Like the Brewers, this is Lambeton's third year in a row in state and Jenniges knows that success has not happened for 2C in a while.
"Last year we got no-hit and lost 2-0 to Dumont," Jenniges said. "If we win on Saturday we could play them in Week 2. You hope to play a competitive game. We are sending three teams to the state but if you look at it, we are one hit away in several games of sending totally different teams to the state from our region."
Jenniges said that if his team can score the first run against Green Isle or play with the lead in the first five innings that that will boost its confidence.
Lamberton was 6-4 in the Tomahawk East before winning nine-straight games.
Jenniges said that the key for his team is to take a lead early before throwing strikes and playing good defense.
Hanska is 21-6 as it enters its 5 p.m. Sunday game with Sobieski.
The Lakers have not been to the state since 2011.
Lakers' manager Mikale Gustafson said that the strength of this year's team is its ability to not give up.
"We won three of our regional games in extra innings," Gustafson said. "And we have won five or six one-run games in the season. Our pitching has been strong all season and we have had some really timely hitting."
Dayton Larson tops the Lakers' pitching staff with a 9-2 record with a 2.56 ERA with Brady Mosenden at 9-1 with a 2.64 ERA.
Mosenden also leads the Hanska offense batting .386.
Gustafson said that the Lakers did not set a goal of the state tournament.
"Our goal was not state but to get to regions this year," he said. "The last two years we have had a good record but got bumped out of the first round of playoffs. With the new region format we thought that we would do really well with our pitching staff. Our goal was to get to regions and then state."
Gustafson said that the Lakers have good defense anchored by second baseman Ben Wolf and shortstop Kevin Larson.
"They are two solid infielders," Gustafson said. "Our pitchers feel more comfortable with them there."
Hanska has also gotten some young leadership from catcher Grant Kannegiesser.
"He is only 18 and he is quiet but when a pitcher needs to get talked to he is there," Gustafson said. "He has done really well."
Hanska will play the Sobieski Skis, who Gustafson knows has a solid team. "They won the Victory League West at 17-0 and come in at 17-5," he said. "We need to score runs early."
One thing Hanska is sure to have is fan support.
"We have a strong core of 50-60 people who follow us and do not miss a game," Gustafson said. "I expect Sunday that there may well be over 100 people from Hanska there."
The New Ulm Baseball Association is planning on taking a bus to the Brewers' state tournament game that starts at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 22 in Jordan.
Cost is $20 per person, which does not include the game ticket. Anyone interested in going you can call 276-7145. Money for the bus must be paid when you sign up.