Yes, they’re league champions for the first time in the new era of Polecats baseball. Yes, they’re happy about it. No, they’re not content.
The Polecats, who wrapped up the league title they had been cruising toward with a two-game sweep of Elk River in late July, have already turned their eyes to a bigger prize – qualifying for state for the third consecutive year.
“That was just our first goal,” said Coach Gary Revenig, about winning the league title. “We need to accomplish our other ones here for us to feel we’ve had a really good year.”
Those other goals include not only qualifying for state, which they’ll have a chance to do when they take on Champlin in a best-of-three series this weekend, but winning ballgames at state as well.
Still, the ‘Cats are certainly proud of a hard-earned Central Ridge League Championship, which they took ahead of second-place St. Michael.
“St. Michael is a great team,” said Revenig. “It just shows the steps we’ve taken as a team, and how we’ve gotten better.”
St. Michael actually made the ‘Cats postpone their clinching party for a couple extra days. The two teams squared off for the third time this season on Friday, July 21, and St. Michael took home their first win of the season series, 11-3. That meant Monti had to win one of two games against Elk River on Sunday, July 23. No problem at all. The ‘Cats won the first game 5-0 before putting an exclamation point on their league season with a 5-2 win in the second game.
Tanner Eckhart threw the opening tilt, continuing his brilliant season with seven scoreless innings. Eckhart allowed just two hits, while striking out three batters. Monti scored once in the second and once in the fourth before opening the game up a bit with three in the fifth. Six different guys had one hit each for Monticello, with Michael Olson driving in a team-best two RBIs and Brayden Hanson reaching base a team-high two times.
Michael Revenig threw the second game for Monticello, turning in a complete-game effort of his own to pick up the victory. Revenig allowed two unearned runs on just three hits in the contest. Monti had eight hits in the game with two each coming from Aaron Hanson and Joe Tupy.
This past Saturday, Monti traveled to Howard Lake for a tuneup game against the perennially strong Orphans. Monti fell behind 1-0 after a couple of defensive miscues in the first inning but stiffened up after that and got some late offense in a 4-1 victory. Nick Zwack, Tanner Eckhart, Michael Revenig, and Jakob Kounkel all got some work on the mound, with Revenig getting the win and Kounkel the save.
Jack Seibert provided the big hit of the game, delivering a two-run home run in the eighth-inning to put Monti up 3-1. It was Seibert’s first home run of the season. Hanson added a big game at the plate for Monti as well, knocking out three hits and scoring two runs.
Monti has one more tuneup game scheduled for Wednesday against Buffalo before they begin their series showdown with the Champlin LoGators for a state berth. Monti will host the first and the third game (if necessary) of the series on Friday and Sunday respectively, while Champlin will host Game 2 on Saturday. The winner advances to the final four teams of Section 4, which guarantees a state berth.
Champlin finished the season with a 10-6 record in the Metro Minny, good for fourth-place. They topped Big Lake in a best of three series this past weekend to advance to the quarterfinal best of three series. Monticello earned a first round bye as league champions.
Revenig expects the LoGators to pose a strong challenge for the ‘Cats.
“They’re going to be tough,” he said. “We’ve gotta take care of business this weekend.”
Revenig knows the ‘Cats have the ability to keep moving deep into the postseason.
“We’ve got a really strong team, we’re well balanced. A nice mix of some young talent with some veterans,” said Revenig. “It’s been a fun season. I just hope we can keep this going for a few more weeks.”
Game 1 is scheduled for 7:30 Friday night at Monticello High School. Monticello will hand the ball to Nick Zwack, and Revenig figures Champlin may go to a just graduated senior as well.
“It could be a matchup of two of the top high school pitchers in the state,” said Revenig. “It’ll be fun.”
Champlin will host Game 2 at 2 p.m. Saturday, likely at Noble Sports Park in Brooklyn Park, with Game 3 scheduled for 1 p.m. back at MHS on Sunday. The series winner moves onto the Section 4 final four, which will be played next weekend to determine seeding at state.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org