Not many teams have five underclassmen at the top of the lineup.
Quite a bit fewer have that, and still have the capability to make a deep postseason run in arguably Class AA’s toughest section.
Pierz managed to do that, with two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior leading things off, reaching Section 6AA’s final four, and perhaps building a foundation for an even deeper run down the road.
“We have a really good group of underclassmen in our program right now,” Pierz head coach Danny Saehr said. “I was impressed with how our underclassmen played. Many of them were put into demanding positions on the field and in the lineup. They stepped up to the challenge and did some very good things for us this season. It started in the regular season and even picked up during the playoffs.
“A lot of players got a lot of experience these past two weeks,” he said. “I hope that is able to carry over into next year and even result in a better finish.”
After splitting its first two playoff games, Pierz bounced back with consecutive resounding victories, starting with a 9-4 win over Sauk Centre in St. Cloud, May 29.
The Pioneers shook off any lingering effects from an 11-1 loss the night before to Osakis, seizing immediate control with four runs in the first inning and another two in the third and fourth to build an 8-1 lead.
Pierz had a handful of players turn in multi-hit performances, led by senior Nathan Athman going 3-for-4 with two doubles, four RBIs and a run.
Senior Mac Gruber went 2-for-2 with two runs and an RBI and sophomores Noah Boser and Aaron Weber and freshman Lane Girtz all went 2-for-4.
Boser doubled and drove in two and Girtz had an RBI, run and stolen base.
Weber scattered seven hits over six innings to earn the win, allowing only two earned runs.
That set up Pierz’ third game of the season versus Holdingford in another elimination contest.
Pierz followed the same formula as it did against Sauk Centre, storming to a big lead with a run in the first and five more in the second before easing to a 9-2 win.
Junior Cody Meyer earned his second complete-game win of the playoffs, striking out six in a five-hitter.
Meyer got plenty of support from his catcher on the offensive side, as freshman Matt Kummet went 5-for-5 with a double, two RBIs and a run.
Boser collected three hits, with Girtz, Meyer, Athman and Woitalla all adding two hits.
Athman and Woitalla both drove in two runs and Girtz and Meyer each had an RBI and a run.
That gave Pierz another crack at Osakis, which was coming off a thrilling 3-2 come-from-behind win in its final at bat the previous night.
The Pioneers played the Silverstreaks much tighter the second time around, but saw one big inning do them in, falling 7-3, Tuesday.
“I was very pleased the way we bounced back after the loss to Osakis,” Saehr said. “It can be tough to come back the next day after a loss, but the kids really responded and played two great games.
“Osakis played two very good games against us. We saw the same pitcher both games. He did a nice job of throwing strikes and they played great defense behind him. The first game they just flat-out outplayed us. The second game we played well, just gave them a few too many opportunities. Give them credit, they took advantage.”
The game was tied at 1-1 after four innings before Osakis scored four runs in the top of the fifth.
Pierz cut that gap in half with two in the bottom of the inning, but the Silverstreaks sealed the win with another run in both the sixth and seventh innings.
Gruber doubled twice, Weber went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs and Girtz had a single and a run.
Pierz finished the season with a record of 13-10.
Seniors on this year’s roster included Evan Woitalla, Tomas Roquemen, Nathan Athman, Mac Gruber and Chris Ortman.
“I was very proud of the leadership of our seniors,” Saehr said. “Even though most of them weren’t batting toward the top of our lineup, they accepted their roles and led us during our playoff run. During the playoffs our seniors led the way and came up with a number of clutch hits.
“For a few of the seniors, it was the best baseball I’ve seen them play during their high school careers,” he said. “This is a sign of great leadership and really helped spark the whole team. They should be very proud of leading this team to the final four in arguably the toughest section in Class AA. We beat some very good teams in Foley, Sauk Centre, and Holdingford along the way. It was a fun run.”
Huskers finish with winning record
Holdingford dropped into the consolation bracket after a 5-0 defeat against Little Falls, May 29.
Junior Nathan Brinker threw four innings of scoreless relief, but the Huskers couldn’t rally from the five-run gap Little Falls built in the first two innings.
Brinker also went 2-for-3 against Pierz.
Holdingford finished the season with a record of 12-9. Seniors on this year’s roster for the Huskers included Cody Bialka, Mitch Messman, Jordan Gombos, Chris Burg, Jake Nelson, Jeremy Springer, Mitch Merten and Nick Catton.
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