SPRINGFIELD - Back in 1994, Bob Fink was in his second season as head baseball coach at Springfield High School and guided the Tigers to the Minnesota State High School baseball tournament.
Twenty years later, Fink and the Tigers are back in the State Tournament with a team that Fink says is similar in their competitiveness.
"The team in 1994 had a dominating pitcher in Phil Clennon and we were based on power," Fink said. "This year's team is a very good hitting team. We pitch to contact, we are more aggressive on the bases and we play outstanding defense."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Springfield second baseman Cooper Scheffler is one of several key players that is leading the Tigers into the Class A State Tournament on Thursday against New Life Academy.
The Tigers open state play at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Chaska against New Life Academy (22-4).
That formula has resulted in a 21-2 mark and a Section 3A crown.
Fink knew coming into this season that this year's edition of the Tigers may be special after last season's 20-5 mark and a 1-0 loss to Windom in the finals.
"We have a lot of very good athletes on this team that can run," he said. "And I believe that in high school baseball if you can be aggressive on the base paths, you will have success. And I knew that we had three or four pitchers that pitch to contact and throw strikes. You do not allow walks to the other team, you will be successful."
Leading the Tigers this season on the mound has been senior Dylan Wersal who, in 48 innings, has a 0.74 ERA and a record of 6-0. Junior Carter Erickson has a 5-1 record and a 1.80 ERA.
"They both pitch to contact," said Fink. "And (senior) Cooper Scheffler has been our third pitcher but he may not be able to pitch in the state because of a severely sprained thumb. But we do have a player in Tim Krueger who has only pitched five innings but we believe that he can shut down a good hitting team."
Fink feels that this team "may be the most balanced team in my 20 years of watching baseball in Springfield.
"Our No. 8 hitter, Brandon Flock, is hitting .378. Up and down our line-up there is somebody different every game that is making something happen."
Senior second baseman Cooper Scheffler is hitting .474 and has 37 stolen bases.
One of the things that the Tigers do is create havoc on the bases.
"There have been games where we are being out-hit 8-3 but we have a 5-0 lead," Fink said. "Once we get on base, we make things happen."
This season, the Tigers have stolen 155 bases, a state record for a season.
Fink said that he and the Tigers are very confident entering their first state tournament game in 20 years.
"It feels nice to get Springfield baseball back in the state," said Scheffler, one of seven seniors on the team this season. "We do not depend on just one player - we have multiple guys who can get on base. We score runs in different ways and this team is very competitive - we are crazy competitive. We do not like to lose. We are confident."
Fink said that prior to their game against New Life Academy he is going to deliver a simple message to his Tigers.
"Go out, have fun and enjoy the moment," Fink said. "The only thing you have control over is your effort. Never fear making a mistake and great things will happen."
For the Tigers and their fans, that has already happened.