Cubs face Maple Lake in first state game

File photo by Travis Rosenau Courtland Cubs coach John Giefer talks to Jackson Bode after Bode reaches third base during the Region 2C championship game with the New Ulm Brewers on Aug. 12 at Riverside Park in Springfield.

COURTLAND — This Sunday in the Class C Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament, the Courtland Cubs will play their first state tournament game in 78 years.

Courtland, which had a first round bye as the Region 2C champions, will take on the Maple Lake Lakers (23-7) at 11 a.m. in Dassel.

This matchup sees the Cubs meeting a state-tournament seasoned team in Maple Lake.

“This is our eighth year in a row in the state tournament,” Lakers manager Casey Pack said. “And since 2011, we have only missed playing in the state tournament once.

“We have had a really good year. We have a really good ace pitcher in (left-hander) Hunter Malachek and a pretty good middle of the lineup.

It has produced a lot of runs for us. We have a good mix of young and veteran players.”

The Lakers are coming off a 12-8 win over Union Hill in their first round game last week.

Malachek, who will start Sunday against Courtland, comes in with a 9-0 record and a 2.46 ERA. He also has 118 strikeouts in 84 innings.

“Our two, three and four hitters have been really good,” Pack added. “Ben Clapp is coming off a real strong college year at St. Cloud State — he has hit close to .500 this summer.”

And Malachek not only leads the Lakers mound staff, he also has six home runs. Clapp adds five homers.

“We have had some ups and downs on defense, but we are solid up the middle,” Pack said. “We are a veteran group that knows how to play.”

Pack thinks that being a state tournament veteran team is a big plus.

“It is a great advantage,” he said. “One year ago against Stark we got out to a lead early — Stark came back and eventually walked us off in the bottom of the ninth. This year we got into an almost identical situation. But we learned from that — we learned what the intensity is like — and we won.

“We still have three players who played for us in the 2012 state championship game when we won it all. There is nothing that gets to big for us. And there are a couple of players on this team that were on the state high school baseball championship team in 2018.”

Pack said that the key for the Lakers on Sunday is simple.

“Hunter is a good pitcher, but he has to limit his walks. When he walks two or three batters in a game he is very good — he gets deep into the game. Offensively, we need to drive runners in when we get them on base. And we have four good left-handed pitchers.”

Courtland manager Chase Meyer takes his young Cubs team into Sunday’s game with a 19-4 mark.

“Right now we are playing some good ball — we are playing at a high level,” he said.

And playing at a high level was what Meyer crystal-balled at the beginning of the Courtland 2023 campaign.

“I knew that we had the tools,” he said. “But whether or not we would come together as a team was another story. There is no question in my mind that we have a very talented team. But that is not the only thing that makes a team a team. We have been close to getting in the past to getting over that hump and making it to the state tournament. So it really depended on if we were going to click and come together.”

This year, the Cubs have been led on the mound by Jackson Bode, who Meyer said will start Sunday against Maple Lake.

“We also have had good pitching from Teddy Giefer in there, myself — Jaden Drill has kind of taken over the closer role for us,” Meyer said.

Offensively, Meyer said that the Cubs are solid top to bottom.

“But we are missing one player in Evan Wiltsccheck, who went back to college in Utah, so we are thinner in the outfield,” Meyer said. “I think that our lowest batting average in the starting nine is in the .270 range.”

The Cubs had a week off but did get have an exhibition game against Faribault to stay sharp.

“We also hit a couple of times during the week — these guys have all played in state tournaments in high school or legion, so we are as ready as we ever were,” Meyer said. “We need to get ahead and stay ahead on Sunday. These guys have played at a high level before and not let the moment get to big for them.”

A win Sunday by Courtland moves them to a contest next Saturday against the winner of the New York Mills-Sartell Muskies game at 4:30 p.m. in Delano.


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