Rabbits back at state
WABASSO — The last time Wabasso qualified for a state tournament in baseball, the Rabbits brought home the championship hardware.
This year, the Section 3A champions are poised to repeat history.
Armed with some talented pitching and three hitters batting over .400, the Rabbits are a team that will have to be taken seriously once the Class A tournament begins on Thursday at Chaska Athletic Park.
The Rabbits are seeded No. 4 in the tournament and will face the defending state champion No. 5 Parkers Prairie at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday. The consolation and semifinals are on Friday and if they keep winning, the championship game is at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Target Field.
The Rabbits went through the Section 3A playoffs unbeaten after getting a lineup established late in the season. Head coach Chad Olson brought up some younger players to start the season and he’s being rewarded now for doing so.
“Early in the year, we gave some guys a shot at various positions and have since brought up a few younger players who have really taken advantage of the opportunity to play varsity baseball,” Olson said. “Freshman Will Carlson (2B) is batting .415 and sophomore Lance Wagner (RF) has committed just one error in twelve games.”
While the kids are alright, the veterans are proving to be pretty good themselves. The Rabbits have eight seniors on the roster, six of them are multiple-year starters.
Future Minnesota State University-Mankato player Nick Altermatt has shown why he’s one of the top pitchers in the area. He has a record of 6-1, including one save and an ERA of .29. He’s struck out 92 batters in 48 1/3 innings, a line that is unbelievable in itself. He’s walked only 12 and hitters have a .151 average against him.
Kyle Jacobson is 4-0 with a 2.96 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings, and Jacob Plaetz is 2-1 with a 3.36 ERA.
Offensively, Rabbits are led by Plaetz, who is hitting .541 with 11 doubles and 33 RBIs. Altermatt is just as big of a weapon at the plate as he is on the mound. He’s hitting .459 with four doubles, five triples, five home runs, 27 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. Kyle Jacobson is hitting .358 with 13 RBIs and Ty Kemp is hitting .339 with three doubles, a home run and 16 RBIs. Carlson (.415) and Cooper Taylor (.327, 13 stolen bases) are also having a good year at the plate.
While Wabasso has a reputation as a football powerhouse, that success on the gridiron is moving toward the baseball diamond. The Rabbits took second two years in a row in football with the same group of athletes.
“The success this team has had the last couple of years in football gives Wabasso an unmeasurable advantage going into the state baseball tournament,” Olson said. “These kids have a ton of experience in big games. This group of seniors has been on our radar a number of years, and we knew they were capable of doing some special things. So far, they have lived up to expectations and then some.”
Parkers Prairie is the Section 6A champion and they are no strangers to the state tournament. They won the state title a year ago and took second in 2016, losing to Springfield in the championship game. This year it showed its depth as it came out of the section through the elimination bracket. The team has plenty of depth at pitching, which will be a bonus at this time of year.
Concordia-bound Matt Ferley is 6-1 on the mound with a 4.11 ERA and he’s hitting .327 with 22 RBIs. Austin Koep is hitting .379 and Alex Koep is hitting .329.
Hunter Haggenmiller has emerged as another standout on the mound, going 6-2 with a 2.92 ERA. He’s hitting .323 and Travis Yohnke is hitting .356.
While the Class A field is strong, Olson thinks his team will do just fine once the tournament starts.
“My expectations for the next few games are that we will continue to perform at a high level of play and give ourselves a chance at success,” he said. “We will focus on the process and enjoy the experience.”