Eagle baseball team is struggling as of late

New Ulm baseball coach Kevin Briggs felt that when his team was 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, it may have stopped doing the little things that had gotten it to that point.

“We may have forgotten to do that daily grind,” he said. “And that No. 1 ranking may have been a bad ranking. All of the media attention, the rankings were a distraction. But the [No. 1 ranking] was something that they should have been proud of — they had earned it — but we did not keep it and now we have to try and get it back.”

Since starting 8-0, the Eagles have struggled in going 3-5 including a big section win against Mankato West.

This year New Ulm is a senior-dominated team with 11 seniors. Is Briggs surprised by the lack of consistency at times?

“No; it takes all of the players in the dugout and if you do not have all of the players, anything can happen,” Briggs said. “It cannot just be a few of them, it has to be all of them. We can beat any team on any day and we can lose to any team on any day if we are not consistent.”

In terms of New Ulm’s recent hitting slump, Briggs said his players have still been getting on base.

“We have been putting pressure on defenses — we are trying to get more productive at-bats,” Briggs said. “I feel that our best hitting days are ahead of us.”

CLOSE OUT BIG SOUTH SCHEDULE THURSDAY: New Ulm closes out its Big South Conference schedule Thursday when it hosts St. Peter in a game at the start of the season appeared as one that could clinch the conference title.

But that has all changed as the Eagles (11-5, 7-3 Big South) trail Marshall (11-4, 8-1) for the Big South Conference Big School championship.

“Right now we are on the outside looking in,” Briggs said. “We would need Marshall to lose [to Blue Earth Area or Luverne] for us to have a shot at the conference. But right now we need to be in a playoff mode the last games and prepare for the playoffs. We need to be consistent for all seven innings.”

GREYHOUNDS HAVE IMPROVED: With an 8-5 win against Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart on Monday, New Ulm Cathedral got back to the .500 mark at 8-8. More importantly, coach Bob Weier said the team has been improving

“One of the things that we have recently done is to move up two freshmen to the varsity in Chris Knowles at second base and Tony Geiger at third base,” Weier said. “We moved players who were at those positions to different positions. And what we have seen over the last two weeks is an improvement in our team and in their performances especially on defense. That was something that we were lacking to start the season — we had a lot of errors. Since we made that move we are pleased with our defense and some of the offense has picked up to.”

Weier said that Knowles has stepped in and done a remarkable job.

“He makes the routine play, he has come up with some nice plays especially to his backhand,” Weier said. “And he does not have an error.

“And the same with Tony at third base. He has done a nice job defensively for us. He is a gutsy kid who plays hard. He puts 100-percent effort into his practices and he wants to improve. Both of them have their challenges offensively facing junior and senior pitching — Chris has come up with some pretty big base hits for us. Tony just needs to learn to be more patient at the plate. That will all come with experience. They are both very open to our coaching. There is a lot to learn in this game and they are both willing to listen.”

Cathedral has two tough games coming up this weekend, weather permitting, when it plays at 14-2 Mankato Loyola on Thursday before hosting a 12-3 Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain on Friday and Mounds Park Academy on Saturday morning.

“Our conference is the most balanced it has been in a while,” he said. “And five of our six non-conference games are against teams that are highly regarded in the state (rankings).”

Weier also thinks that the first round of the section may have some upsets due in part to the pitch count.

“Ten of the 15 teams have one good pitcher and there are some good teams that will get eliminated,” he said.

GUNDERSON HAPPY WITH CHARGERS: With a 12-0 win over Madelia on Tuesday, the Minnesota Valley Lutheran Chargers finished the regular season at 11-7.

“I am happy with our record and there have been plenty of games where we have gotten that clutch hit,” MVL coach John Gunderson said. “With the exception of the one game where we had 10 errors, we have played terrific defense all year. And the guys pitching for us have put us in great shape to win.”

Looking at the seven losses by MVL this season, four have come by three runs or less.

“That is the way it is in the Tomahawk [Conference] where you play these close games,” Gunderson said. “A swing of the bat here or a groundball there can really change any team’s record.”

Gunderson said that MVL’s most-consistent player this year has been senior Nick Fischer.

“He started off this season hot and has played great baseball,” Gunderson said. “He has pitched well and also has two home runs.”

But Gunderson is probably most pleased with his starting pitching depth with between four to five players — Nick Fischer, Alec Gratz, Jordan Fischer, Jace Marotz and Owen Rich.

“That depth is important especially with the new pitch-count rule in high school baseball,” Gunderson said.

As far as playoffs, Gunderson said that the Chargers need to focus on themselves.

“Our section is real strong but we feel that we can play with them and we feel very comfortable going into the section tournament,” he said.

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