While the success that the Minnesota Valley Lutheran baseball team had getting to the semi-finals of the Section 2A baseball tournament may have surprised some people, there is one person who was not surprised.
"I felt all along that we could be there as well as teams like BOLD, New Ulm Cathedral and Sleepy Eye St. Mary's," said Chargers' coach Jeff Schoenherr, who saw his team end their season at 10-10 with a 1-0 loss to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown Tuesday. "I knew coming into the season that we were going to have some strong pitching. It would come down to whether we had the defense and timely hitting."
In an early season game, he did not get that. Schoenherr felt a disappointing 10-0 loss to Sleepy Eye may have refocused his team.
"I feel kids are almost afraid to compete nowadays," he said. "They are afraid that after they lose, they hate that feeling. It hurts after a loss and I think that they found out that it is OK to go out and compete and that a hurt after a loss is OK. That just builds character."
Schoenherr said the word that best describes this year's team is the word 'team.'
"They bonded together down the stretch - they counted on each other one through nine in the line-up - that is what makes a team so special when they look out for each other."
MVL came into the 2A tournament as the fifth seed but disposed of fourth-seeded Lester Prairie. The Chargers then lost a 2-1 game to top-seeded Sleepy Eye St.Mary's before rebounding with wins over higher seeded teams in New Ulm Cathedral, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial and Mankato Loyola.
"We were playing our best baseball at the end of the regular season," Schoenherr said. "You hope that you have things in place when tournaments start."
If you have seen the Chargers play, you notice that they are very relaxed, which is sometimes not what Schoenherr wants.
"Sometimes they are too relaxed for me," he said. "The reason for the calmness is that we were the number five seed. There was no pressure on us in the playoffs - we got more confident. I never saw pressure get to the players."
Schoenherr rode the duo of senior Rick Jensen and junior Nick Dewanz into the playoffs, who both used their assets to their advantage.
"They both attacked the strike zone and they let their defense help them," Schoenherr said. "That is why they were able to throw so many innings for us."
MVL will have some rebuilding to do for next year but they will have Dewanz back on the mound.
"He really came into his own down the stretch," Schoenherr said. "I do not know if he ever knew how special he can be on the mound. He is just starting to realize what he can accomplish. I think that during the summer he is only going to get better."
TIGERS PLAY RELAXED: Springfield High School baseball coach, Bob Fink, said that the key for them Thursday against Windom in Marshall in the 3A championship game is to play relaxed, play good defense and be aggressive on the basepaths.
"In 70 percent of our games, we have taken teams out because of our aggressiveness," Fink said. "We have six players with over 15 stolen bases each - we make things happen. We put the ball in play. I believe that in high school baseball you are never guaranteed a large number of hits off of pitchers, so you have to make things happen. Sometimes it makes you look foolish but 90 percent of the time good things happen."
Now 20-4, Fink feels that there is no pressure on his team as they need to beat Windom twice.
"This team is unique in that they stay at one level all of the time," Fink said. "They show up to the park and have fun. We do not care if we win or lose - we are going to give our best effort."
Fink also learned a lot from MVL coach Jeff Schoenherr, whom he tries to emulate as a coach.
Fink said that he will send Isaac Kirschstein to the mound in Game 1.
"He has been consistent all year," Fink said. "He is 8-2 with an ERA of under 1.00."
If the Tigers win, Shawn Anderson will pitch in game two.