The Coon Rapids baseball team has found itself in familiar territory during the post season.
The Cardinals are once again one of the last teams in the state playing.
The team won a state title in 2008 and finished third in 2010. Last season Coon Rapids made it to the Section 5AAA final only to be swept by the eventual state runner up Maple Grove.
This season, as the No. 2 seed Coon Rapids earned a first-round bye and the right to play No. 7 seed Osseo on May 28 ousting the Orioles 7-2 to make the final four. It was the team’s 12th win in 13 games.
The win put the Coon Rapids in a double-elimination bracket at Midway Stadium in St. Paul from June 1-6.
Since starting the season 0-2, the Cardinals have been one of the hottest teams around. Already armed with three of the top pitchers in the northern suburbs, it just took a few swings before the bats came around.
“I don’t know if it was psychological or physical, but we just didn’t hit the ball well at the beginning of the season,” head coach Jerry Coe said. “I think what happens is a couple guys aren’t hitting and it gets contagious. Our whole team wasn’t hitting. It was real sporadic.
“We spent a lot of time on hitting. Now they’re getting a hit every game. I don’t think anybody in the section one through nine that can put a lineup like this up. There are probably better hitters, but consistent one through nine we’re pretty strong.”
With the new BBCOR bat requirement, which acts more like wooden bat then the trampoline-like bats high schools used in previous seasons, hitting across the board is down in 2012.
“I noticed not a lot of kids with RBIs and home runs as I used to just looking at the overall stats,” Coe said. “Not a lot of higher averages either. If you hit around .400, that’s pretty decent. It used to be like. .450 or .500. Pitching and defense has become more important.”
That’s good news for Coon Rapids. The Cardinals had a stretch of 42 innings during the regular season without an error. Coe said this has been one of his best infields in a years.
Bobby Smith has been a pleasant surprise at shortstop.
“He’s made all the routine plays and many outstanding ones too,” Coe said.
Luke Peterson and Tyler Kelm split time at second with the tall Alex Wojciechowski at first.
“He’s saved our bacon a lot,” Coe said.
Casey Waterman, who Coe said might be a better second basemen when he heads to Luther College in Iowa next season, volunteered to fill in at third.
Alex Aase “is one of the best outfielders defensively I’ve had in a long time,” Coe said. He’s flanked by Alex Boxwell and Grant Farley.
They’ve helped keep the team’s pitchers relaxed and ascend to one of the best defenses in Minnesota. The team gave up on average of 2.4 runs per game, better then some of the top teams in Class AAA, including Maple Grove, Burnsville, Hopkins, Hill-Murray, North St. Paul, Cretin-Derham Hall, Lakeville North and Mahtomedi.
Wojciechowski, Cody Herrmann and Logan Shore have combined for 14 wins this season.
Wojciechowski is undefeated in the regular season the past two years and Herrmann is one of the top seniors in the state. Shore hasn’t disappointed in the least as one of the top prospects in the state.
A rotation like that is rare for high school, which has helped in the playoffs. Even if a team has an ace pitcher, they can’t throw all 21 innings of a three-game week.
“Some teams hope they can come with a one, two, three rotation, but they roll the dice set it up so they hope to have that top guy rested in time,” Coe said. “We realize that we have three, four guys that could be someone else’s No. 1 pitcher.”
The last four teams left in Section 5AAA include No. 1 seed Maple Grove, No. 3 Robbinsdale Cooper and No. 4 Totino Grace.
Andover baseball was awarded the No. 2 seed in Section 7AAA along with a first-round bye. With a victory on Thursday in the quarterfinals, the Huskies would enter a double-elimination bracket starting June 2.
Grand Rapids was given the No. 1 seed.
The Huskies had an up-and-down season that finished on an upswing. Going 14-6, Andover had two, three-game losing streaks — one at the beginning of the season and one at the middle.
The Huskies never lost a game by more then two runs. In between those losses the boys had winning streaks of eight and five games, which included victories against Elk River, Centennial, Champlin Park, Edina and Robbinsdale Armstrong among others.
All six of the team’s losses game against either Blaine, Maple Grove or Coon Rapids. Both Maple Grove and Coon Rapids spent the season ranked in the top 10 in Class AAA.
Andy Rogers is at firstname.lastname@example.org