By Tyler Ohmann
The best a Division II Legion baseball team can do is become the regional champion.
After winning 4-of-5 games at the Central Plains Regional in Wahpeton, N.D., last weekend, Pierz did just that.
As the Minnesota Division II state champion, Pierz made the decision to trek to Wahpeton and play the best from the Central Region.
“The tournament directors did a really good job there, so it made it easier,” said Pierz’ Matt Tautges. “We didn’t have to worry about anything, we could just show up and play baseball.”
That play began with three games of pool play.
Pierz took on Wisconsin Division II champion, West Salem, Thursday, Aug. 3.
Four Pierz pitchers took the hill in a 6-4 Pierz victory, limiting the pitches on arms, to save them for later in the tournament.
Tautges, Matt Kummet, Peter Schommer and Rocheleau all tossed for Pierz.
All of Pierz’ offense came in a six-run second inning.
Rocheleau drove in two runs with a 2-for-3 day. Luke Girtz hammered a two-run single.
Pierz cruised to a second win and clinched a No. 1 seed out of its pool with an 8-0 shutout of Park River, N.D, Friday, Aug. 4.
Tautges was again strong, going 3-for-4 and scoring three times.
Noah Boser drove in three runs, while Rocheleau, Reese Kapsner and Schommer combined to allow only three hits in the seven innings.
Since Pierz already had the No. 1 seed out of its pool locked up, the final pool play game against Marysville, Kan. was treated like an exhibition, and many players who don’t get a much playing time took the field.
However, it was a pinch-hit two-RBI single by Tautges that put Pierz up 3-2.
Marysville broke the game open in the bottom of the sixth, however, scoring 10 runs.
As the No. 1 seed, Pierz played the No. 2 seed out of the other pool in the semifinal, Saturday, Aug. 5.
Pierz again cruised, this time to a 5-0 shutout of Las Vegas, Nev.
Tautges went all seven innings, and had a no-hitter going into the final frame.
In the seventh, Tautges allowed a strike up the middle.
“I was really frustrated after I gave up the hit,” Tautges said. “I left a slider right over the plate and I wanted a slider off the plate and low.”
“He drove it right up the middle, so there wasn’t really a play that anyone could make,” Tautges said.
Tautges hunkered down and closed out the contest. Rocheleau drove in two runs, while Jack Suska and Reese Kapsner each had multi-hit games and scored twice.
Pierz had to face a familiar foe in West Salem, Wis. in the championship, Sunday, Aug. 6.
“They were a really good hitting team, so we had to have really good pitching,” Tautges said. “That’s what got us there in the first place, so we just needed to continue to have that good pitching.”
Pierz received a ton of fire power from the bottom four batters in the lineup: Suska, Kapsner, Girtz and Thomas Funk. The quartet went 6-for-11, scoring five times and driving in three runs for Pierz.
“I knew we wouldn’t have a problem staying composed, because of all the big games we’ve been in this year,” Tautges said. “I knew it would be an advantage if the game ended up being close.”
Rocheleau earned the win after pitching five innings and allowing one earned run.
Schommer pitched for the third time in the tournament, and didn’t allow a hit in two innings to earn a save.
“We knew how they hit, what they hit and where they hit,” Tautges said. “That really helped instead of having just to watch them play other teams.”
After Pierz celebrated being atop the pinnacle of the Division II Legion world, Tautges was named Tournament Most Valuable Player, and he was joined on the All-Tournament team by Boser
“This really put a stamp on a great high school year for our seniors and it was obviously extremely valuable experience for our young guys,” Pittman said. “We had great parent and fan support throughout the tournament run and that really makes it a special.”
Tautges had few doubts that the season would be special.
“After how good of a run we had in high school, and getting Noah (Boser) back, I knew we could do something special,” Tautges said.
Pierz coach Dylan Pittman missed the first couple of games, but was able to join the team. He and his wife are expecting a baby any day now.
“It was great to be able to get back with the guys and finish what we started,” Pittman said. “I also need to thank my wife (Colleen) for letting me be away for multiple days at a time so late in her pregnancy.”