Living for the playoffs
The Osakis Legion baseball team is at the point in the season where the focus gets a little sharper as the lofty expectations this group has for itself sits right in front of them.
These players and head coach Shad Schmidt proved during the 2013 school season that they can set big goals and go out and get them. They talked about playing at Target Field for the Class A title game before the season even started that year, and that’s exactly where they ended up.
Now with a good core of that group back together, they have set their sights on trying to win a state Legion tournament.
First things first, they have to get out of the District 7 playoffs, and they got off to a good start in a 17-3 win over Wheaton on Tuesday night. That set up a match-up against fifth-seeded Morris last night, Thursday, before heading to Wheaton this Saturday.
“We’re really strong,” fifth-place hitter Michael Herringshaw said. “We don’t have any weaknesses really one through nine, so I feel like we have a really good chance to go to state and possibly beyond that.”
Herringshaw was a big part of the offensive explosion against Wheaton. He went 4-for-4 with two triples, four runs scored and three RBIs. He came up with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and put an exclamation point on the rout with a bases-clearing triple that made it a 16-3 game.
“It felt really good,” Herringshaw said. “It was just a good team win overall. We all hit very well and pitched really well…we got a lot of good leaders on this team and me and Brandon [Giesler], Cody [DeWenter] and Brady [Berberich], we support them.”
CLICKING ONE THROUGH NINE
Those who have followed this team the past few years know all about the guys at the top of the lineup. Lane Berberich, Drew Fearing, Jordan Frederick and Ky Zimmel hit in the first four spots on Tuesday and have established themselves as dominant players at this level.
It was the guys behind them that stole the show against Wheaton. Herringshaw started it from the fifth spot, but Giesler added a single and a double to go along with three RBIs and two runs scored from the sixth spot. Brady Berberich was 2-for-2 with a walk, three RBIs and two runs scored from the eighth spot and Hunter Scherr had a two-RBI double and scored twice hitting ninth.
“Brady had some big hits,” Schmidt said. “Hunter had a big hit. Brandon had big hits, and Cody gives us good at-bats. I think for sure one through nine we’re pretty tough. We’re not as tough as we could be with Douglas [Zimmel] in the lineup, but we’re just going to take the guys that are here and playing well. They’re going to play and whatever happens, happens.”
ZIMMEL STILL OUT
Doug Zimmel was hoping he would be back on Tuesday night after having a doctor’s appointment to take a look at his broken right hand that he injured earlier this summer. Instead, he was told he needed to keep the cast on for at least two more weeks.
“He brings so much to the team,” Schmidt said when asked if that news was tough to take. “He brings leadership. He brings a solid guy behind the plate if we need that, a solid guy at the corners, first and third, a solid bat in the lineup. One through nine with Douglas in the lineup, I feel we’re as good as any team in the state, but we haven’t had him all year so the nice thing is it’s not like he started and all of a sudden he can’t play. The guys are cruising along without him and we’ll get through.”
There’s still a chance Zimmel could be back if Osakis advances to the state tournament, which will be played August 1-3 in Luverne. That’s a little motivation for a group that would love to welcome him back, but is prepared to make this run without him.
Giesler said guys have made the adjustments without Zimmel able to go. Giesler has taken over all the catching duties this summer and worked with a pitching staff that is led by ace Jordan Frederick.
Frederick worked just three innings on Tuesday and was his dominant self before being pulled with an 8-0 lead. He retired all nine men he faced, fanning five of those without allowing a walk.
Lane Berberich worked the final two frames and struggled a little bit with his control. He walked three and allowed three hits on his way to giving up three runs, two earned. Schmidt said Berberich and Ky Zimmel will both have to play a big role for this pitching staff if Osakis is going to get where it wants to be.
“Ky has been throwing good,” Giesler said after catching the staff all summer. “Lane has had a good season so far and Drew comes in when we need him. We got a couple guys who we can move around and everybody has experience at every position, so it’s nice.”
“WE’RE PLAYING AGAINST OURSELVES”
Osakis did have one inning on Tuesday where it threw the ball around a little bit. Wheaton used a couple errors in the fourth to score all three of its runs.
Osakis knows it can’t do that against better competition as the playoffs progress. BOLD, the program that beat Osakis in the Class A title game in 2013, is a team that stands out on the South side of the District 7 bracket as the biggest threat to Osakis’ run to state.
BOLD is ranked first in the latest Division II Minnesota Legion baseball polls that came out on July 9. Osakis is ranked fifth in those polls.
Osakis knows it would need to play well in all facets of the game to beat a team like BOLD, but it’s a group that is confident in its ability to beat anyone after the kind of success they have had together over the years.
“Other than that one inning where we were throwing the ball around a little bit, we’ve been playing really sharp,” Herringshaw said. “When we’re playing like this, I don’t think any team can really beat us unless we throw the ball around and just kind of mess it up ourselves. Like coach has been saying, we’re playing against ourselves. The only way we’re not going to keep going is if we mess it up.”
SAYING NO TO THE ALL-STAR GAME
Osakis Legion baseball coach Shad Schmidt had an opportunity that hardly ever comes around that he passed up on in order to set an example for his players this past week.
Schmidt had tickets to Tuesday night’s Major League Baseball All-Star game at Target Field in Minneapolis but gave those tickets to his uncle to use in order to be at Osakis’ opening round playoff game against Wheaton.
“I preach to these guys dedication to what they’re doing for this team and what we can do,” Schmidt said. “How do I tell them that and not be here for the first playoff game? They were really good about it. They said I should go and they’d be fine without me, and I agree. They would have been fine without me. They don’t need me, but I just wanted to show to them that I’m going to live what I preach and hopefully that resonates the rest of the year.”
Schmidt was still able to take in some of the all-star festivities leading up to the game. He was at the home run derby on Monday night with his wife and two daughters and also went to the Futures Game and the celebrity softball game.
WHEATON 000 30 – 3
OSAKIS 017 9X – 17
OSAKIS PITCHING – Frederick – W, 3IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 5SO; L. Berberich – 2IP, 3H, 3R, 2ER, 3BB, 2SO
OSAKIS OFFENSE – L. Berberich – 1-3, BB, SB, 3 RBI, 1 run; Fearing – 1-2, HBP, BB, RBI, 1 run, 2 SB; Frederick – 0-2, HBP, SB, 1 run; Jarrett Weispfennig – 0-1, 1 run; K. Zimmel – 0-3, BB, SB, 1 run; Herringshaw – 4-4, 2 3B, 4 runs, 3 RBI; Giesler – 2-2, Sac, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 runs; Clayton Niehoff – 1-1, RBI; DeWenter – HBP, BB, 2 runs; B. Berberich – 2-2, BB, 2 runs, 3 RBI; Scherr – 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 runs