Class B rankings: Historic performance reaps rewards for Air Freight Unlimited

Air Freight Unlimited players celebrate winning the 2023 Minnesota Baseball Association Class B state title.

By Nick Gerhardt

nickgerhardt@mnbaseball.org

What did we think of last year’s Class B state tournament? In the first combination of Class A and B since Class A began, we saw historic performances and a level of competitiveness that not everyone expected. Air Freight Unlimited emerged with the title behind a record-setting performance from left-hander Graham Laubsher, who set a new state tournament record by striking out 60 hitters in 29 innings and sporting a 0.59 ERA. Air Freight defeated upstart Shakopee 4-2 in the title game to claim its second title in three years.

Teams that previously inhabited Class A won 18 of the 31 games, but five of the final eight teams came from the previous version of Class B. Needless to say there was parity.

We saw big upsets in the first round with No. 1-ranked Lyon’s Pub falling to a No. 4 seed Anoka. We also saw traditional power Minnetonka and Cold Spring make their way to the final four.

The offseason has brought plenty of roster updates. Teams have added new players and some players have switched teams. It all shapes up to another year filled with twists and turns. We turned to our experts for their thoughts and here’s what they decided.

Air Freight earned a near unanimous decision to claim the No. 1 spot after claiming five of the six first-place votes. After that, things get jumbled. 

Miesville slotted into the No. 2 spot and a rebranded Minnetonka fell into the No. 3 spot. The Cinderella story Shakopee Indians took the No. 4 spot while what people have already dubbed Minnesota State, North campus, St. Patrick rounded out the top five. 

The 2022 state tournament runner-up Champlin Park LoGators start the year at No. 6 following a disappointing first-round exit to the Minneapolis Angels last season. Stockmen’s Irish claimed the No. 7 ranking and the Springers figured into the No. 8 spot. Lyon’s Pub, which held the No. 1 ranking entering the state tournament last year, dipped to No. 9 to start this year and shares the spot with St. Louis park, which survived a 2-1 first-round game with Young America. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have returned to Class C, which will open up a state tournament spot for Section 3B. The Minneapolis Cobras rounded out the top 10 with the No. 10 spot.

Tom Kolar Air Freight Unlimited

Another year of townball, and I am happy to be making my debut on the poll this year. Time will tell if I am any good at this thing, but at worst I hope I can provide a lot of teams with bulletin board material throughout the year.

I will say since this is my first poll, that it was a lot harder than expected coming up with these rankings, and finding the balance of how much stock to put into the results of last year versus what I expect for this year was certainly difficult. As with all my rankings from here on out, please direct any and all complaints to Jordan Wiggins. Anyways to the rankings we go.

1. Air Freight Unlimited — Look, nobody can argue that I do not have an extreme bias when it comes to this ranking, but we were 28-1 last year, Laubscher is back and most of the lineup is back. A lot can happen over the season, but I expect us to be around in September.

2. Miesville Mudhens — Made it to the quarterfinals last year, always a good team even and I don’t think they lost anybody. Even though the core is getting older, I still expect that they will be there in September.

3. St. Patrick Irish — Some may call them “Mankato North”, not saying I do but this is what I have heard … This team is stacked with college players and made it to the final weekend last year but bowed out in a tough one against Tonka. If they get a good draw, they can go far.

4. Champlin Park LoGators — They had a great regular season but disappointed in the postseason. Runner up two years ago. I am assuming Riola is back and it looks like former pro Tyler Reichenborn was added. They should be around the last weekend of the tournament depending on how things shake out.

5. Shakopee Indians — Runner-up last year and an amazing run to the title game. I could argue that based on their performance in the tournament last year they should be ranked higher, but there is also an argument that this was maybe a case of a team getting hot at the right time. Time will tell, but they have two extremely talented young pitchers, which is always a good formula to make a deep run at state.

6. Minnetonka “Monarchs” — New name, and I believe some if not all of the old guard is gone. I still expect this team to be good but think that there are a lot of questions around the young guys taking over and if they can pick up the slack, as well as a more difficult Riverview League with Baseball 365 joining.

7. Cold Spring Springers — Semifinalist last year and had a great run during the tournament with Brian Hanson taking home the silver slugger. I don’t know a ton about them, but I would be shocked if they did not make the tournament this year even with Section 2 dropping down to three bids.

8. Lyon’s Pub Warriors — 30-plus win season a year ago and an undefeated season in the P-Nash (if I recall correctly) is certainly nothing to scoff at. They also held the No. 1 ranking a few times last year, but a disappointing appearance in the tournament losing in the first round to Anoka. I don’t know all that much about this squad but based off their performance in the regular season they certainly have depth, I just wonder if they have the top end talent to make it through the grind of the state tournament.

9. Stockmen’s Irish — Another team that has been dominant in the regular season, and on paper is extremely talented but only has one semifinal appearance in the last 10 years. They certainly have the talent to get to the last weekend. 

10. Baseball 365 — They are playing in the Riverview this year which should presumably help their draw when it comes to state tournament time. Danner is a legit ace, and they are capable of beating anybody when they are at their best.

Honorable Mention: St Anthony Hogs, Moorhead Brewers, Dundas Dukes, Minneapolis Angels.

Aldon Severson — Northfield Knights

Another year of amateur baseball is upon us and brings with it a sense of excitement! Teams will be fighting for a spot in this year’s state tournament in Belle Plaine, Jordan and Green Isle. As usual, preseason rankings are largely informed by last year’s state tournament and ignorant of offseason changes to teams and players. If something looks like a big mistake – give me a break. We’ll be on track by Memorial Day! 

1. Air Freight Unlimited

2. Shakopee Indians 

3. Minnetonka Monarchs 

4. Miesville Mudhens

5. Cold Spring Springers

6. St. Patrick Irish 

7. Minneapolis Cobras

8. Moorhead Brewers 

9. Stockmen’s Irish 

10. Hopkins Berries

Honorable Mention: Baseball 365, Champlin Park LoGators, Dundas Dukes, Lyons Pub Warriors, Metro Knights, Minneapolis Angels, Northfield Knights, St. Louis Park Pirates

Nate Jackson — Lyon’s Pub Warriors

1. Air Freight Unlimited

2. Miesville Mudhens

3. Stockmen’s Irish

4. Minnetonka Monarchs

5. Champlin Park LoGators

6. Hopkins Berries

7. Moorhead Brewers

8. St. Louis Park Pirates

9. Baseball 365

10. Cold Spring Springers

Honorable mention: Lyon’s Pub Warriors, Coon Rapids Redbirds, Dundas Dukes, St. Paul Capitals, Chaska Cubs

Nat Croaker — Northwest Orioles

1. Air Freight Unlimited — Defending Champs

2. Champlin Park LoGators — Super talented

3. Lyon’s Pub Warriors — Coming off a great season

4. Minneapolis Cobras — Always a good team

5. Miesville Mudhens — In the mix every year

6. St. Louis Park Pirates — Full of good, veteran hitters

7. Minnetonka Monarchs — New name, same talent?

8. Shakopee Indians — Coming off a good season

9. Baseball 365 — Always a top 10 team

10. Plymouth HitDawg — Sneaky good team the last couple seasons

Jordan Wiggins — St. Anthony Hogs

Preseason rankings are always a fun one. In a time of townball where leagues/sections are changing and the loop has disappeared, who really knows which teams have reloaded or suffered significant losses. Unless you follow the post-March 15th release/signed wire on the MBA website like some hard-nosed managers/players, I think we ought to let the rankings speak for themselves on the field until mid-June. But since we like to have bulletin board material and something to read into this time of year, I’m happy to provide my opinion. 

For starters, Air Freight left no doubt who was the best team in Class A/B in last year’s state tournament. When push comes to shove and the A-lineups are on the field, they’re an amazing team. And you’ll see them at the top of my rankings shortly. But for the rest of my rankings, I think it’s fair to reflect a nearly 50/50 split between formerly A and formerly B teams as we saw based on how the 2023 state tournament bracket played out. 

1. Air Freight Unlimited — The best pitcher in townball toes the rubber for any meaningful matchup they play throughout the year. Also, the current makeup of a three-weekend state tournament lets him throw the majority of their August innings. They back him with a lineup of great defense and bats that make Air Freight a really tough team to match for seven or nine innings. Can’t wait to see if Tom Kolar agrees. 

2. Minnetonka Monarchs — As a formerly Class A manager, I have biased towards the Millers. Their vets know good baseball and that has trickled down to the youth that has come up in the recent years.  

3. Cold Spring Springers — Similar to Minnetonka, these guys have a deep roster of veterans that have won for years (decades?) and youth that comes from a town with rich baseball history and success. 

4. St. Louis Park Pirates — I see they have some nice offseason additions, mainly at least one from another Class A powerhouse. If they have a roster that shows up to the park, these guys will rack up wins in 2024. 

5. Baseball 365 — Good pitching and a couple great bats. Time-proven recipe for success at any level. Will be interesting to see how they forge their position in the Riverview League. 

6. Miesville Mudhens — I haven’t seen Miesville in a few years, though I know they’re always in it when it matters. Not sure they have the typical fire power they’ve had in the past but I know the bones are there to be an elite team in 2024. 

7. Stockmen’s Irish — Great pitching and defense: a Skyline staple. Stockmen’s plays the game the way baseball was meant to be played and Ryan Duffy is as good as they come on the mound. Consistency of run production is what will dictate how far they can go. Todd Klingsborn will have these guys ready to go. 

8. Shakopee Indians — Baseball Town, USA should be ready to run it back off a second-place finish in 2023. A team that won’t ever go away, you have to beat these guys for nine consecutive innings to have a chance. 

9. Moorhead Brewers — Four hours from the cities, from a small section/league, it’s tough to have a gauge on these guys if you just look at their annual schedule/results. All I know is Moorhead is always there come August and they provide a difficult task for anyone they match up with. 

10. St. Patrick Irish — I hope this ranking comes with no disrespect but I truly don’t know anything about St. Patrick besides they’re always in the tournament and knock teams out left and right. I’m sure a few others will have them higher to adjust their all-meaningful final May ranking. 

Matt Marek — Champlin Park LoGators

1. St. Patrick Irish — When you sign half the Minnesota State, Mankato roster to follow up a top-eight finish in the state tournament, it turns some heads.

2.  Air Freight Unlimited — It was really tough not to put them at No. 1, but they may find themselves in the poll position in short order once the season starts. As long Laubscher can stay close to his form from last year, they should be just fine.

3. Minnetonka Monarchs — The post-Kevin Hoy era begins for Minnetonka with a new name and a couple of new faces — highlighted by Griffin Schneider — to go with the familiar faces.

4. Shakopee Indians — Shakopee largely came out of nowhere to make a run all the way to the Class B title game. Riley Thuringer (IMG Academy) and Jaden Case (MSU) highlight the newcomers.

5. Miesville Mudhens — It wouldn’t be a preseason rankings article without Miesville in it. Remains to be seen if they make any additions to the roster, but last year’s edition was good enough for a top-eight finish.

6. Stockmen’s Irish — Another team with a premier arm at the top of the rotation in Mr. Duffy. Paul Jones II is a solid add, as the youngster is committed to Maryland.

7. Lyon’s Pub Warriors – The Pub was at or near the top of the rankings for much of the season, but fell flat in the first round of state. A solid returning crew should keep them in the mix in 2024.

8. Elko Express — Can former MLB’er Jake Petricka get the Express out of the vaunted Section 1? My money is on the “yes.”

9. Burnsville Bobcats — Have you seen what Connor Hartley is doing at St. John’s this year? If you haven’t, I’d check. After taking the No. 1 seed in Section 3 last year, Burnsville stumbled in the section, but adding Andrew Hanson from Champlin Park, could be the boost they need.

10.  Minneapolis Cobras — Another team not that far removed from a title. Loting Thomas Kinsella will sting, but by the looks of it they have done a nice job of replenishing the roster.

Baseball 365 — Bennett McCollow and Matt Olive add some pop to the lineup

Rochester Royals — Surprisingly fell short of the state tournament after winning it in 2022. Is Matt Meyer back and healthy?

Champlin Park LoGators — Lost Andrew Hanson, but replaces with former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand Tyler Reichenborn. Adding Former Cold Spring Springers Tate Wallat and Ero Wallin will add to a talented lineup, but will the pitching hold up?

St. Anthony Hogs — Can make the argument if they get out of the first round barnburner with Moorhead they make a deep run.

Moorhead Brewers — Speaking of Moorhead, you almost pencil them into the state tournament. Is this the year?

Class B Rankings (as of May 7)(Pts)

1. Air Freight Unlimited (59)

2. Miesville Mudhens (42)

3. Minnetonka Monarchs (41)

4. Shakopee Indians (33)

5. St. Patrick Irish (24)

6. Champlin Park LoGators (22)

7. Stockmen’s Irish (21)

8. Cold Spring Springers (19)

9. Lyon’s Pub Warriors (15)

9. St. Louis Park Pirates (15)

10. Minneapolis Cobras (12)

Also receiving votes: Moorhead Brewers, Hopkins Berries, Plymouth HitDawg, Baseball 365, Elko Express, Burnsville Bobcats, St. Anthony Hogs, Coon Rapids Redbirds, Dundas Dukes, St. Paul Capitals, Chaska Cubs, Metro Knights, Minneapolis Angels, Northfield Knights.

Check out additional content below: