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Resorters baseball: Cougars primed for region run

The Cougars' Joe Schueler slid safely into home in a game against Brandon-Evansville earlier this season. Schueler is hitting .477 with a team-high 26 runs in 65 at-bats for the Carlos offense. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

The Carlos Cougars are perfect to this point in the season, but they still haven't accomplished what they set out for at the beginning of the summer.

That road starts tonight when the Cougars open up the Region 14C tournament at home in an 8 p.m. game against Hi-10 West representative Detroit Lakes. Make no mistake; Carlos is thrilled to be 16-0 after rallying for a 5-4 win over Clarissa to take the Resorters East tournament title this past Sunday. But the Cougars are a veteran bunch that always has their sights set on playing well at a region tournament.

"It's a good feeling," player-coach Aaron Noetzelman said of the 16-0 record to this point. "It shows that we have been playing well up to this point, but as a team, we have yet to reach our goals. Our goal coming into every season is to make the state tournament. Up to this point, we have given ourselves a good chance to get back there."

It didn't come easy, but this is a team that simply finds ways to win regardless of the opponent. Clarissa looked to be on its way to forcing a game two in the East championship this past Sunday when the Flyers took a 4-0 lead after the third inning.

Slowly but surely, Carlos chipped away. The Cougars got three back in the sixth inning before tying it at four apiece with a run in the seventh. Then in the ninth, they scored on a sacrifice fly to take their first lead of the game.

That was enough to hold on for the 5-4 win. Matt Hoelscher made sure of that as he overcame two walks in the bottom of the ninth to get the save. Hoelscher fanned two and made a winner out of Jay Schueler, who threw 2 2/3 innings of scoreless ball in relief of starter AJ Anderson.

"I think we're playing pretty good," Noetzelman said. "Our defense has been awesome all year. Regions is all about good pitching and defense. Our offense has been putting up runs all year. If our pitchers throw strikes, with the way our defense has been playing, we should be very tough to beat."

That defense has helped the Cougars' pitching staff post a combined ERA of 1.71 this season. Mark Hillesheim leads the staff with 40 innings pitched and 50 strikeouts. He has a 2.25 ERA. Schueler is not far behind with 30 2/3 innings pitched, 36 strikeouts and a 1.17 ERA. Nate Hoelscher has been overpowering when he pitches, fanning 35 in just 22 innings.

Carlos had equally as impressive numbers last year as it went into the region tournament. The Cougars hope it means a different outcome this time around after falling a game short of a state bid in 2012.

"We are in pretty much the same position we were in last year," Noetzelman said. "I think the guys are hungry. It's been two years since we made state. We are a very competitive group of guys, and we don't like to lose. I think this year's team has a little more depth defensively than last year's team. We should have a good shot."

Noetzelman also anticipates the full roster being available this weekend. The Cougars seem to have the pieces to make a deep run in the 14C tournament, which will be played in Perham after tonight's game in Carlos. The title game is scheduled for next Saturday at 8 p.m.

Both teams that make it to the region championship will earn a spot at the state tournament. This Carlos team believes it has a good shot to be one of those teams. Now all that's left to do is prove it on the field.

"I have a pitching rotation in my head, but you have to play each game to win it," Noetzelman said. "We have a pretty deep staff of pitchers who all offer different things. After that first inning of game one, you never know what's going to happen, so everyone has to be ready every game."


CARLOS 000 003 101 - 5 8 0

CLARISSA 301 000 000 - 4 9 1

CARLOS PITCHING - Anderson - 5 1/3IP, 8H, 4R, 4ER, 6BB, 5SO; Schueler - W, 2 2/3IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 4BB, 0SO; M. Hoelscher - S, 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 2SO

CARLOS OFFENSE - Jake Tharaldson - 2-4, 1 run, RBI; Noetzelman - 1-3, 1 run, HBP; Brad Nyberg - 0-1; Schueler - 2-4, 1 run, RBI; N. Hoelscher - 0-3, BB, 1 run; Gideon Burnham - 0-2, BB; Anderson - 1-4, RBI; Ryan Severson - 0-3, RBI; Dave Schjenken - 0-0, BB; Justin Steidl - 1-3, 1 run, BB; M. Hoelscher - 1-4

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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