Eagles make return trip to state tournament

File photo by Steve Muscatello New Ulm’s Tyler Roufs leads the Eagles on the mound this year. The Eagles open the Class AAA state tournament on Thursday.

NEW ULM — For the second time in the last three years, the New Ulm Eagles baseball team is headed to the Minnesota State AAA baseball tournament following a 2-1, 11-inning win over Mankato West last Thursday.

The Eagles (20-3) earned the No. 3 seed and will square off against the 14-9 South St. Paul Polars at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Siebert Field.

New Ulm coach Kevin Briggs said that this Eagles team truly is a team.

“The interesting thing about this team is that we have had someone different step up in different games,” he said. “I do not know that everyone has played their best every game but as a team we found that we have depth. We are finding ways to win.”

This is a veteran New Ulm team with 12 seniors on the 18 man roster. But Briggs said that despite the pressure to get to the state with a veteran roster, it was the team’s ability to handle that pressure.

“Have we faced pressure? Yes. Have we had pressure on us? Yes. But this team knows how to handle the pressure,” Briggs said.

Hunter Ranweiler, the team’s catcher, said that it means a lot to get back to the state tournament after a one-year absence.

“It means a lot knowing that we are living up to New Ulm baseball standards,” Ranweiler said.

Being one of the 12 seniors on the team Ranweiler, who leads the team in hitting with a .433 average and 15 RBI, said that the pressure was there and they accepted it.

“We knew that our season could be done if we did not meet our goals that we had set for ourselves,” Ranweiler said. “But we knew if we went out there and played ball and had fun we could not be stopped. There were times when we have been down by six runs and come back and 10-runned them. We are loose and confident.”

Shortstop Andrew Peters said that getting back to the state after a one-year hiatus, is because of the total team effort.

“We are 18 strong,” Peters said. “We all have each other’s back and pick each other up.”

Hitting .403 going into the state tournament with a team-leading 28 RBI and also carrying a 3-0 mound record and a 1.25 ERA, Peters said the loss to Mankato West in the Section 2AAA championship game last year cost the Eagles a chance to be making their third straight trip and refocused them for this season.

“It gave us that extra urge to make to the state,” Peters said. “Getting the three-seed in the state makes us feel good. We deserve it and I hope we can show that in the state.”

Tyler Roufs, who leads a solid Eagles’ pitching staff with a 4-1 mark and a 1.50 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings, said that this season was one of having fun and let the season goes where it goes.

Roufs said that his confidence has been high this year.

“The coaches call the pitches and with Hunter behind the plate,” Roufs said. “I have a lot of confidence in him knowing that if I throw a ball in the dirt he will block it. He lets me be confident on the mound.”

The Eagles also have solid arms behind Roufs in T.J. Sweere (3-0, 2,73 ERA), Luke Scheid (5-0, 1.41 ERA) and closer Brandon Seidl who is 3-0 and holds a stellar .940 ERA in 22 1/3 innings.

Briggs feels that his team deserves the three seed in the tournament.

“But seedings are a kind of waste of time because every team that gets to the state is good — they are there for a reason,” he said. “We are one good outing from winning and one bad outing from losing.”

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