Class C prognosticators reveal their dark horses, favorites, upsets and underdogs

By Nick Gerhardt

ScoreMonster Contributor

news@mnbaseball.org

The best time of the year starts anew with the Class C state tournament kicking off Friday in New Prague and Shakopee. All eyes will be on who will make a run through the state tournament and the magic moments that will occur along the way.

We’ve leaned on our four experts to provide their knowledge for our rankings throughout the season and we turn to them once again to make sense of a loaded field this season.

Sobieski enters the tournament ranked No. 1 and a favorite for the 2018 title. It would be their first in four years. But then again we’ve been surprised with some incredible tournament performances leading to state titles, like last year with Kimball rising to the occasion to win on a walk-off home run against Lake Henry in an instant classic of a state title game. 

Once again, thanks to the four experts for their dedication and trove of knowledge on teams across the state. Their work is greatly appreciated. (Jason Kuerschner and Aaron Worm get extra credit for breaking the tournament down by quadrants.)

Here it is, the 2018 Class C state tournament predictions.

Tom Elliott — St. Cloud

The Favorite: The Sobieski Skis are ranked No. 1 in the state and deserving of the title after breezing through the Victory League and Region 8C. Tyler Jendro is still the rubber-armed ace and the lineup is potent all the way through.

The Dark Horse: It’s hard to call the defending state champion Kimball Express a dark horse, but they went 7-7 in the Central Valley League this summer. It’s a veteran, experienced team that hits well, doesn’t make mistakes and has strong front-line pitching. They’ll be a force.

The Upset: I’m terrible at this because I think in any given year, there are about 20 teams that legitimately could win the state title, if everything breaks right for them. To me, a real upset is a team that nobody thinks is going to win and they do. With that said, I’ll take the Crookston Reds over Belle Plaine. Who in their right mind would pick that?

The Sleeper: I don’t know if you can call New Market a sleeper, but the Muskies have a chance to go deep into the final weekend. They’re talented and play a strong schedule. I also think that the Luxemburg Brewers could surprise. They have two really strong starters in Reed Pfannenstein (former Cold Spring Springer and NDSU Bison) and Austin Klaverkamp. They also have a power-laden lineup. They were the top seed out of the Central Valley League heading into Region 11C.

Trent Sukalski — Jackson

The Favorite: Sobieski Skis (21-0). The Skis outscored their opponents 67-8 in their run through the divisional and region playoffs. They have clearly been one of the best teams all summer, and I like the path they have to bring another state championship home, to go along with their 2014 Class C title.

The Dark Horse: The Milroy Yankees (23-5). The Yankees are the No. 1 seed in Region 4, and have been in the state rankings the second half of the year, so you may not consider them a dark horse. But when I think “Dark Horse,” I’m thinking Labor Day weekend. Manager Ryan Rohlik does a fantastic job with his club and I believe they will be a tough out.

The Upset: The Jackson Bulls (18-14) over the defending Class C runner-up from a year ago the Lake Henry Lakers on Saturday. The Bulls started the year 2-10, and have went 16-4 since.  Longtime manager Scott Bahr has more than 500 wins in his career and knows how to win a game and get the most out of his guys. Veteran left-hander Ryan Rasche will get the ball on Saturday and has plenty of state tournament and big game experience. The Bulls have great veteran players in Andy Wolf, Blaise Jacobsen and Mike Wierson to name a few, plus a slew of young college players.

The Underdog: Belle Plaine Tigers (21-8). The Tigers knocked perennial state power Blue Earth out of the region and ended the Pirates’ consecutive state tournament run at an amazing 15 in a row. Belle Plaine has posted its most wins since 2011, led by the pitching trio of Brody Curtiss, Nathan Herman and 2018 River Valley League All-Star left-hander Wes Sarsland. The Tigers are a young team that has largely grown up together from youth ball. If they can get by Crookston, their mettle will be tested with a matchup against the defending Class C Champion Kimball Express. If the Tigers somehow make the final weekend, I like their chances with their pitching depth.

Aaron Worm — New Prague

Quad I

The Favorite: Sobieski, been on top of the rankings most of the season, Skis come in as the tournament favorite.

The Dark Horse: New London-Spicer

The Upset: St. Patrick over Lamberton, I personally don’t consider it an upset, but based on the seedings, I’ll take the Irish.

The Underdog: Lake Henry, they were not on the radar for many last year and got to the state final, I put them in this role, based on the strength of this part of the bracket, going to have to possibly knock off teams like Sobieski, Sartell and New London-Spicer to get back to title game.

Quad II

The Favorite: New Market, I like the Fish to win the whole thing, but their path to the title game will be challenging with teams like Fort Ripley, Jordan, Maple Lake and Richmond all in this portion of the bracket, but the depth at pitching including draftees, the Masberg brothers out of Union Hill, make New Market my overall favorite.

The Dark Horse: Maple Lake

The Upset: Fort Ripley over Pelican Rapids, again just based on seedings. The Rebels come out of the talented Victory League

The Underdog: Young America, I had the Cardinals in this role last year, if they get by the first round, tough second-round matchup with Jordan.

Quad III

The Favorite: Plato, winners of tough Region 7

The Dark Horse: Faribault, had the Lakers in this roll last year too.  Dealt with a lot of injuries this season, but this now healthy Lakers team has the talent to get deep into Labor Day weekend.

The Upset: Luxemburg over Bluffton.

The Underdog: Fergus Falls, always like the Hurricanes, good representatives from northern Minnesota.

Quad IV

The Favorite: Kimball, to be the champs, you’ve got to beat the champs, they have to be the favorite in this portion of the bracket

The Dark Horse: New Prague, I don’t know if this term fits the Orioles after last year getting to the final four. Solid in all aspects of the game, and with the sea of orange that will follow this host team, I have them riding the wave back to the final four.

The Upset: Belle Plaine over Crookston and if this happens the Tigers will give Kimball a run in the second round.

The Underdog: Waconia, never sleep on any of the Crow River teams, I have the Lakers in the final eight.

Jason Kuerschner — Cologne

Quad I

The Favorite: Sobieski, they are undefeated on the year and playing as well as they have coming into the state tourney over the past few years. But this quad is loaded with great talented teams. Six of the 12 have been in the top 10 in the rankings at some point during the season.  This will not be easy for anyone to come out of this grouping.

The Dark Horse: New London-Spicer, they could make it to the final Saturday and face Sobieski.

The Upset: Carver over Sartell and Ada. Carver has a plethora of lefties to throw at people and with the draft have locked down a potentially quality closer. They started the year hot but cooled off as of late. Can they find some magic and get to the third weekend again like last year?

The Underdog: Chokio, even though they are consecutive Region champs they have not fared well in the state tourney in the past. This grouping of 12 is no easy task either.

Quad II

The Favorite: Jordan, I believe they only have one loss to a Class C team all season and swept through the Region 6C Tourney. New Market and Raymond are in this grouping as well.

The Dark Horse: Maple Lake, they had a successful regular season in the North Star, but ran into a hot, high-flying Hutchinson team in the region championship. Don’t fall asleep on these Lakers!

The Upset: Alright, I am going to go homer here, sorry, also against my favorite. Young America is my upset team with this group. I feel that they open the tourney on Friday with a win over Foley and with their stable of arms and hitting they will get the upset win over Jordan in the second round.

The Underdog: Richmond, they may come in as the No. 1 seed out of Region 15 but they potentially play Raymond and if they get by that one Jordan is looming around the corner.

Quad III

The Favorite: This grouping is tough also, but I am not going to stray too far away from my teams here. Plato is my favorite for this grouping, they have two quality starters on their team and added three great arms for the tournament run. They can hit and play defense, they are just one tough team to play against.

The Dark Horse: Elrosa, the Saints have played well during the regular season and have a state tourney seasoned team. I can see them winning their first two games and getting into the final 16.  After that it is up to them.

The Upset: Hutchinson, I think they have the toughest draw here in this grouping, they get the winner of Lastrup/Waterville. That can be a very difficult place to be.

The Underdog: Mora, even if they win their first game they are looking most likely at Plato!

Quad IV

The Favorite: You might think that I would go with Kimball as they are the reigning state champs. But I am going to go with the Milroy Yankees. They swept through the regular season with the Corn Belt league and I just have a hunch about them this year.

The Dark Horse: New Prague, how could I not go with a host team for this year? They have Ortonville and Hanska in the first two weekends. The name of the game is to win and advance, if they can get some momentum those first two games they could come up with a beautiful run during the tourney.

The Upset: I’m going with Belle Plaine over Kimball. Which will knock out the defending champs before they even get started.

The Underdog: The Hadley Buttermakers, one I just lover saying Buttermakers and two, they get the winner of Waconia/Buckman, neither of which will be an easy task. (Thirdly, if you haven’t checked out their new Twitter logo, please do so and give a shout out to Rhino from Town Ball Tuesday as he did the artistry)

So my favorites from the four quads to advance to the final four are: Sobieski, Jordan, Plato and Milroy Yankees.

Good luck to all the teams that have advanced, congratulations on a fine season, even if you don’t win a game at state you still had a great season.

Photo courtesy of Brace Hemmelgarn

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